Objective: Given the harms associated with injecting drug use to both individuals and community and the paucity of such data from rural areas, the study aimed to compare: patterns of drug use, harms, and service access and utilisation among rural and metropolitan injecting drug users (IDU).
Design: Cross-sectional survey, using interviewer-administered structured questionnaire.
Participants: One hundred and sixty-four rural and 96 metropolitan IDU from seven different New South Wales Area Health Services, recruited through needle and syringe programs (NSPs), snowballing techniques and advertisement.
Results: Age, gender, education and employment were similar for rural and metropolitan participants. Both samples reported use of a range of drugs, but rural participants were less likely than metropolitan participants to report daily heroin use (2% vs 10%), but more likely to report having injected morphine (50% vs 21%) in the last six months. Similar proportions reported using a needle/syringe after another person. Rural participants were less likely to report use of NSPs (36% vs 80%) and reported a number of barriers to NSP access and also to drug treatment services. Rural participants reported a significantly longer period of time between blood-borne virus testing.
Conclusion: Samples of rural IDU are similar to metropolitan, although report some differences in patterns of drug use. Service provision, including access to new injecting equipment, blood-borne virus testing and drug treatment was found to cause considerable problems for rural IDU. These issues warrant further consideration.