Latent classes of heroin and cocaine users predict unique HIV/HCV risk factors

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 May 1;122(3):220-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.10.001. Epub 2011 Oct 24.


Background: Patterns of heroin and cocaine use vary and may be associated with unique risk factors for bloodborne infections.

Methods: Latent class analysis identified sub-populations of 552 heroin and cocaine users in Baltimore, Maryland. Using latent class regression, these classes were analyzed for associations with demographic characteristics, risky behaviors, Hepatitis C, and HIV.

Results: Three classes were found: Crack/Nasal-Heroin users (43.5%), Polysubstance users (34.8%), and Heroin Injectors (21.8%). Compared to Polysubstance users, Crack/Nasal-Heroin users were almost 7 times more likely to identify as Black (OR=6.97, 95% CI=4.35-11.2). Sharing needles was over 2.5 times more likely among Polysubstance users than among Heroin Injectors (OR=2.66, 95% CI=1.49-4.75). Crack/Nasal-Heroin users were 2.5 times more likely than Polysubstance users to exchange drugs for sex (OR=2.50, 95% CI=1.22-5.13). Crack/Nasal-Heroin users were less likely than Heroin Injectors to have Hepatitis C (OR=0.10, 95% CI=0.06-0.18), but no significant differences were found for HIV.

Conclusions: Subpopulations of cocaine and heroin users differed in demographic classifications, HIV-risk behaviors, and Hepatitis C infection. All subpopulations included substantial numbers of HIV-positive individuals. Findings provide further evidence that non-injection drug users face significant infectious disease risk.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / classification
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / virology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / classification
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C / classification
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Heroin Dependence / classification
  • Heroin Dependence / epidemiology*
  • Heroin Dependence / virology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needle Sharing / adverse effects
  • Needle Sharing / trends
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexual Behavior / classification