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Alcohol use and gender effects on HIV risk behaviors in cocaine-using methadone patients

Authors Rash CJ, Petry N

Published 20 November 2009 Volume 2009:1 Pages 25—32


Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Carla J Rash1, Nancy M Petry2

1Department of Psychiatry, 2Calhoun Cardiology Center, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT, USA

Abstract: Injection drug users engage in behaviors that increase the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other infectious diseases. Although methadone maintenance (MM) is highly effective in decreasing heroin use and the spread of HIV, polydrug use, especially the combined use of cocaine and alcohol, is common in MM patients. Alcohol use is independently associated with HIV risk behaviors, and the effects of alcohol use on risk behaviors may vary by gender. This study evaluated the effects of recent heavy alcohol use and gender with respect to HIV risk behaviors in 118 cocaine-abusing methadone patients. Both lifetime and past month injection and sexual risk behaviors were examined. Recent heavy drinkers (n = 46) were more likely to be male than nonheavy drinkers (n = 72). Recent heavy drinkers reported more risky sexual behaviors over their lifetimes than nonheavy drinkers. Gender effects were also present for lifetime risk behaviors, with females demonstrating more sexual and injection risk behaviors than men. In terms of recent injection risk behaviors, there was a significant alcohol use by gender effect. Heavy drinking females reported significantly more drug-sharing behaviors and less frequent needle cleaning than nonheavy drinking females. Recent sexual behaviors did not differ based on alcohol use status or gender. These findings may inform HIV prevention strategies in cocaine-abusing MM patients, and they suggest that cocaine-abusing women who drink heavily are a particularly high risk group who should be counseled about risky injection drug use practices.

Keywords: HIV risk behaviors scale, gender, alcohol use, methadone maintenance, opioid dependence, cocaine use

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