Relationship between complementary/alternative treatment use and illicit drug use among a cohort of women with, or at risk for, HIV infection

J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Sep;16(9):989-93. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0584.


Objectives: Two of the most pressing public health challenges in the United States are treating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and illegal substance use. High rates of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use have been reported by individuals who suffer from both of these diseases. The goal of this study was to examine the relationship between CAM use and illegal substance use in a cohort of women with HIV or at risk for HIV disease. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized that CAM use may decrease substance use.

Design: This was a longitudinal cohort study.

Subjects: The subjects comprised Women in the Women's Interagency HIV Study.

Outcome measures: The role of CAM use in illegal substance use was examined. Due to the hierarchical structure of the dataset, logistic regression analysis adjusting for repeated measurements (generalized estimating equation model) was carried out to assess associations of CAM use and illicit drug use.

Results: There were 2176 women included in the analysis. After excluding for marijuana use, CAM use was associated with less drug use (odds ratio 0.82; 95% confidence interval: 0.73, 0.90).

Conclusions: The results supported our hypothesis that CAM users are more health conscious and thus less likely to use illicit drugs. Future studies should target both specific drugs and CAM modalities to help finalize this association.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Users / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Odds Ratio
  • Substance-Related Disorders*


  • Illicit Drugs