Meth and Injection Drug Use Among Street-Involved Youth

Methamphetamine use quickly progresses to injection in at risk teens

(RxWiki News) Experimenting with illegal drugs can spiral into more dangerous choices and health consequences. Once kids start shooting up, they become at risk for serious diseases.

In a recent study on drug use in Canada, researchers looked closely at the role of crystal methamphetamine in leading to injection drug use among street-involved youth.

The results of the study showed that recent crystal methamphetamine use was predictive of starting injection use of the drug later on. 

"Seek treatment for drug abuse."

Dan Werb, MSc, from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, led this investigation into whether crystal methamphetamine use led to injection drug use among street kids in Canada.

Crystal methamphetamine, also called "meth" or "crystal meth," is an illegal stimulant type of street drug. 

According to the authors of this study, street-involved youth (teens who spend extensive time on the street, a large proportion of whom are homeless) are at high risk for injecting illegal drugs with a syringe and needle into their bodies.

Injection drug use comes with a high risk for transmitting diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, as well as for lethal overdose.

Through the At-risk Youth Study, from 2005 to 2010, the researchers recruited and interviewed 991 street-involved youth, ages 14 to 26, about recent drug use.

Of these youth, 39.9 percent reported crystal methamphetamine use, and 39.4 percent reported injection drug use.

After a closer look, the researchers found that participants who used injection drugs were more likely to use crystal methamphetamine compared with those who did not use injection drugs — 46.9 percent versus 33.9 percent, respectively.

The youth who had reported injection or crystal methamphetamine use at the start of the study were excluded from final results.

This left only 395 participants who had not ever used injection drugs or crystal methamphetamine at the start of the study.

Over the five-year study period, 1,434 interviews were completed.

Over the course of the study, 16.2 percent of the remaining participants started using injection drugs.

The researchers found that recent non-injection use of crystal methamphetamine predicted later use of injection drugs. Also, they found that the most common first injection drug used was also crystal methamphetamine (45 percent).

“Non-injection use of crystal methamphetamine predicted subsequent injection initiation, and crystal methamphetamine was the most commonly used drug at the time of first injection,” the authors of the study wrote.

The authors went on to recommend increased efforts in prevention strategies to stop youth from starting to use injection drugs.

This study was published in October in the CMAJ.

The National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research provided support for this project. Individual researchers reported receiving support from various health research foundations. Study co-author Dr. Julio Montaner reported grant funding and speaker fees from multiple biotech and pharmaceutical companies.  

Review Date: 
October 10, 2013