May 2013

This study found that although younger people who inject drugs (PWID) make up a smaller proportion of total PWID, they engage in high-risk injecting practices such as public injecting and needle sharing at higher rates compared with their older counterparts. Younder PWID remain an important group for prevention and harm reduction initiatives.

For this study, data were taken from 11 years of a repeat cross-sectional study of sentinel samples of regular PWID (The Australian Illicit Drug Reporting System, 2001–2011). Analysis explored the relationship between age and four outcomes of interest: last drug injection occurredin public, receptive needle sharing (past month), experiencing injecting-related problems (e.g. abscess,dirty hit; past month), and non-fatal heroin overdose (past six months).

The median age of participants was 33 years, and median duration of injecting was 13 years. After adjusting for factors including duration of injecting, each five year increase in age was associated with significant reductions in public injecting, needle sharing, and injecting-related problems. Among those who had injected heroin in the six months preceding interview, each five year increase in age was associated with an average 10% reduction in the risk of heroin overdose.

Reference: Horyniak D, Dietze P, Degenhardt L, Higgs P, McIlwraith F, Alati R, et al. The relationship between age and risky injecting behaviours among a sample of Australian people who inject drugs. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. E-pub ahead of print, May 9 2013.

View the abstract and download the full article here.

These findings indicate a need for further research with young PWID, to explore attitudes towards risk, and motivations for engaging in high-risk injecting behaviours, and potentially for harm reduction campaigns targeted to younger PWID.

Danielle Horyniak, CREIDU PhD scholar and lead author of study.