Changes in HIV risk behavior among injecting drug users: the impact of 21 versus 90 days of methadone detoxification

AIDS. 1996 Dec;10(14):1719-28. doi: 10.1097/00002030-199612000-00017.


Objective: To evaluate the hypothesis that long-term methadone detoxification would produce greater HIV risk reduction among injecting drug users (IDU) than short-term detoxification.

Design: Random assignment to 21 or 90 days of free detoxification.

Setting: Storefront offices in two cities, with referrals to outpatient methadone detoxification.

Participants: Out-of-treatment IDU (n = 1803), recruited through street outreach and word of mouth, between April 1990 and March 1991. Of these, 62.6% were successfully located for 6-month follow-up.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported drug injection and sexual practices at baseline and follow-up.

Results: Substantial reductions in risk behavior were observed at follow-up. Substantial percentages of subjects reported less frequent drug injection (54%), use of shooting galleries (85%), needle-sharing (67%), and number of sex partners (73%), and more frequent use of bleach to disinfect needles (67%) and condom use (31%). There were no significant differences in behavioral change between 21 and 90-day treatment, and subjects who entered treatment did not report significantly greater risk reduction than untreated subjects. Discriminant analyses showed a marginal effect for duration of treatment on risk reduction, although results were inconsistent.

Conclusions: Large scale behavioral risk reduction appears to be occurring in this population regardless of treatment condition. In minimal service methadone detoxification, subjects treated under a longer-term detoxification protocol demonstrated no greater risk reduction than those receiving short-term detoxification.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • HIV Infections / etiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Methadone / administration & dosage*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Methadone