Social determinants and the health of drug users: socioeconomic status, homelessness, and incarceration

Public Health Rep. 2002;117 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S135-45.


Objectives: This article reviews the evidence on the adverse health consequences of low socioeconomic status, homelessness, and incarceration among drug users.

Observations: Social and economic factors shape risk behavior and the health of drug users. They affect health indirectly by shaping individual drug-use behavior; they affect health directly by affecting the availability of resources, access to social welfare systems, marginalization, and compliance with medication. Minority groups experience a disproportionately high level of the social factors that adversely affect health, factors that contribute to disparities in health among drug users.

Conclusion: Public health interventions aimed at improving the health of drug users must address the social factors that accompany and exacerbate the health consequences of illicit drug use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons / psychology
  • Ill-Housed Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Minority Groups / psychology
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prejudice
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Public Health
  • Risk-Taking
  • Social Class*
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Welfare / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / economics
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Illicit Drugs