Aims To compare characteristics and illicit drug abuse patterns among drug abusers in rural and urban areas of Hunan Province, China.
Measurements and design Data collected by public security bureau on newly registered drug abusers between 2005 and 2008 in five urban and five rural areas (n = 1639) were extracted anonymously and analyzed.
Setting and participants All newly registered drug users in urban (n = 812) and rural (n = 827) areas of Hunan Province were included.
Findings Drug users from the rural areas were younger [31 (6.6) versus 34 (8.0) years, P < 0.001], with a higher proportion of males (86% versus 82%, P < 0.05) or married (34% versus 27%, P < 0.01). Rural drug users reported an earlier onset of drug use [27 (5.9) versus 30 (7.9) years old, P < 0.001], were more likely to report heroin as their primary drug of abuse (53% versus 47%, P < 0.001) and had a lower prevalence of criminal activities (19% versus 31%, P < 0.001). Rural drug users were less likely to report needle sharing (1.8% versus 4.3%, P < 0.01), less likely to report being human immunodeficiency virus positive (0.8% versus 2.6%, P < 0.01) and less likely to report prior drug treatment participation (2.8% versus 6.8%, P < 0.001).
Conclusions Drug abuse is a substantial problem in both urban and rural areas in China. The very low proportion of newly registered drug users reporting any prior drug abuse treatment points to the importance of expanding substance abuse treatments, especially in rural areas where treatment penetration is even lower than in urban areas.