Trouble on the Needle

Injectable drug abuse was found more often in adults with troubled childhoods

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Shooting up is both extremely dangerous and a difficult habit to kick. What can be done to help prevent people from ever going down the path of injecting drugs?

A recent study asked a group of people who used injection opioid drugs about their childhood histories and compared their answers to people in the same community who did not use injectable drugs. The study’s findings showed getting into trouble with the law early on in life and unstable living circumstances in childhood increased the odds of using injectable drugs.

"Seek professional help immediately for any type of drug abuse."

John Macleod, PhD, professor in clinical epidemiology and primary care, and Matthew Hickman, PhD, professor of public health and epidemiology, from the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol in the UK, teamed up to investigate risk factors for injection drug use.

For the study, 432 individuals who used drugs with an injection needle and 432 same age and gender individuals who did not use injection-type drugs were recruited from the same community health clinic.

This study looked at people injecting opiates like heroin or painkillers.

Injection drug users were recruited between 1980-2006 and interviewed for the purposes of this study between 2005-2007. The non-drug users were recruited between 2008-2009.

Of the drug users, 53 percent lived with both parents, 30 percent lived with at least one parent, 8 percent lived with a relative, 9 percent were either adopted out or in foster care and 23 percent moved around more than once.

Of non-drug users, 71 percent lived with both parents, 23 percent lived with at least one parent, 3 percent lived with a relative, 3 percent were either adopted or in foster care and 16 percent moved around more than once.

Authors calculated foster care to increase the risk of injectable drug use by 3.9 times compared to those living in two-parent homes.

A total of 14 percent more of the drug users witnessed violence in the family compared to non-drug users, 11 percent more had family in trouble with police and court system and 12 percent more had financial problems.

There were few differences between the two groups for loss of a family member or close friend, or having family members that were mugged or had homes robbed.

Having a caretaker with a drug or alcohol problem put participants at a 2.3 times higher risk for using injectable drugs.

A total of 129 drug users experienced violence from a caretaker compared to 58 of non-drug users. Physical and sexual abuse combined put participants at a 2.7 times higher risk for using injectable drugs.

The greatest disparity between the two groups came from pre-adult arrests and juvenile detention. Drug users reported 53 percent pre-adult arrests, while non-drug users reported 14 percent. Drug users reported 27 percent experience in juvenile detention, while non-users reported only 2 percent.

Authors concluded, “Injection drug use in adults is associated strongly with prior childhood adversity, in particular not living with both parents and early conduct problems. Prevention initiatives should also consider these risk factors.”

This study was published in December in Addiction.

The Chief Scientist Office for Scotland and the National Institute of Health Research funded the study.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 9, 2013
Last Updated:
January 14, 2013