Background: Studies of injection drug use cessation have largely sampled adults in drug treatment settings. Little is known about injection cessation and relapse among young injection drug users (IDU) in the community.
Methods: A total of 365 HCV-negative IDU under age 30 years were recruited by street outreach and interviewed quarterly for a prospective cohort between January 2000 and February 2008. Participants were followed for a total of 638 person-years and 1996 visits. We used survival analysis techniques to identify correlates of injection cessation (> or =3 months) and relapse to injection.
Results: 67% of subjects were male, median age was 22 years (interquartile range (IQR) 20-26) and median years injecting was 3.6 (IQR 1.3-6.5). 28.8% ceased injecting during the follow-up period. Among those that ceased injecting, nearly one-half resumed drug injection on subsequent visits, one-quarter maintained injecting cessation, and one-quarter were lost to follow-up. Participating in a drug treatment program in the last 3 months and injecting less than 30 times per month were associated with injection cessation. Injecting heroin or heroin mixed with other drugs, injecting the residue from previously used drug preparation equipment, drinking alcohol, and using benzodiazepines were negatively associated with cessation. Younger age was associated with relapse to injection.
Conclusion: These results suggest that factors associated with stopping injecting involve multiple areas of intervention, including access to drug treatment and behavioral approaches to reduce injection and sustain cessation. The higher incidence of relapse in the younger subjects in this cohort underscores the need for earlier detection and treatment programs targeted to adolescents and transition-age youth.