In-hospital illicit drug use, substance use disorders, and acceptance of residential treatment in a prospective pilot needs assessment of hospitalized adults with severe infections from injecting drugs

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2018 Sep;92:64-69. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2018.06.011. Epub 2018 Jun 22.


Objective: To conduct a pilot needs assessment of underlying substance use disorders (SUD), motivation for SUD treatment, and willingness to enter residential SUD treatment in hospitalized adults who inject drugs with complex infections requiring intravenous (IV) antibiotics, and to assess the presence of in-hospital illicit substance use.

Patients and methods: From March 8, 2016 through August 25, 2016 hospitalized, English-speaking, adult patients not currently in SUD treatment with a history of injection drug use and a current infection requiring treatment with IV antibiotics, were prospectively enrolled. Participants were followed weekly during the hospitalization and for 60 days after discharge via interview and medical record review.

Results: Of the 42 participants, 8 (19.0%) accepted discharge to residential SUD treatment, 16 (38.0%) completed at least one follow-up research visit after hospital discharge, and 3 (7.1%) died during the 5-month study period. The majority (33; 78%) were hospitalized with endocarditis, and 37 (88.0%) had an opioid use disorder (DSM-5). Mean days of self-reported IV opioid use in the 30 days before hospitalization compared to 30 days after discharge decreased significantly (16.5 to 1.5, P = .001) despite not receiving SUD treatment. Illicit in-hospital drug use was identified in 17 (40.5%) participants, with opioids most commonly detected.

Conclusion: Hospitalization is a 'reachable moment' and critical opportunity to initiate evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder. The ongoing in-hospital illicit drug use and high short-term mortality observed in this study contribute to the mandate to expand access to effective pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder and integrate it into health care settings.

Keywords: Endocarditis; Injection drug use; Substance use disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Infections / epidemiology
  • Infections / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Needs Assessment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / complications
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Discharge
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residential Treatment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / rehabilitation*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Illicit Drugs