Association between prescription drug misuse and injection among runaway and homeless youth

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014 Jan 1:134:406-409. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.10.027. Epub 2013 Nov 7.


Background: The nonmedical use of prescription drugs is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, disproportionately impacting youth. Furthermore, the population prevalence of injection drug use among youth is also on the rise. This short communication examines the association between current prescription drug misuse (PDM) and injection among runaway and homeless youth.

Methods: Homeless youth were surveyed between October 2011 and February 2012 at two drop-in service agencies in Los Angeles, CA. Prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association between current PDM and injection behavior were estimated. The outcome of interest was use of a needle to inject any illegal drug into the body during the past 30 days.

Results: Of 380 homeless youth (median age, 21; IQR, 17-25; 72% male), 84 (22%) reported current PDM and 48 (13%) reported currently injecting. PDM during the past 30 days was associated with a 7.7 (95% CI: 4.4, 13.5) fold increase in the risk of injecting during that same time. Among those reporting current PDM with concurrent heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine use, the PR with injection was 15.1 (95% CI: 8.5, 26.8).

Conclusions: Runaway and homeless youth are at increased risk for a myriad of negative outcomes. Our preliminary findings are among the first to show the strong association between current PDM and injection in this population. Our findings provide the basis for additional research to delineate specific patterns of PDM and factors that enable or inhibit transition to injection among homeless and runaway youth.

Keywords: Homeless youth; Injection; Prescription drug misuse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Homeless Youth / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / psychology*
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / trends
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / diagnosis
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / psychology*
  • Young Adult