Gender differences in the initiation of injection drug use among young adults

J Urban Health. 2000 Sep;77(3):396-414. doi: 10.1007/BF02386749.


To characterize the circumstances surrounding initiation of injecting drug use, data were collected from 229 young, recently initiated injection drug users enrolled through community-based recruitment in Baltimore, Maryland. Gender differences in the pattern of initiation, the number of persons present at initiation, risky injection, and sexual behaviors at initiation, as well as behaviors after initiation, were examined. Overall, men and women were similar statistically with respect to age at initiation (19.5 years) and risk behaviors at initiation. While men were initiated by men (77%), women were more often initiated by women (65%), most of whom were friends (75%) or relatives (23%). The percentage of women infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was slightly greater than that of men, 17% versus 11% (P < .2), whether initiated by a man or a woman. Persons who self-initiated had a lower HIV prevalence and fewer HIV-related risk behaviors. Analysis of variance assessed differences in the HIV risk profiles of female and male IDUs who were initiated by someone of the same sex, of the opposite sex, or who self-initiated. These results indicated that (1) young women and men had similar patterns of injection initiation; (2) most women were initiated by female friends, running counter to earlier literature claims that women were initiated to injection drug use by male sex partners; and (3) women initiated by men had a marginally greater mean score on the HIV risk profile.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Baltimore / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*