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An Observation of Lower Rates of Drug Use over Time in Community Syringe Exchangers


Address correspondence to Dr. Kidorf, Addiction Treatment Services—BBRC, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, 5510 Nathan Shock Drive, Suite 1500, Baltimore, MD 21224. E-mail:


Background and Objectives

The present study evaluated changes in rates of self-reported heroin and cocaine use in opioid-dependent individuals newly registered to a syringe exchange program (SEP), and examined the effects of recovery-oriented longitudinal variables (i.e., substance abuse treatment, self-help group participation, employment) on changes in drug use.


Study participants (n = 240) were opioid-dependent and drawn from a larger study evaluating strategies to improve treatment-seeking. Mixed model analyses were used to evaluate changes in rates of heroin and cocaine use, and longitudinal correlates of change in these substances, over a one-year period.


Results showed reductions in days of heroin and cocaine use over time, and that participation in recovery-oriented activities was strongly associated with greater changes in drug use.

Conclusions and Scientific Significance

These results suggest SEPs can play a vital role in facilitating reductions in drug use through motivating participation in treatment and other recovery-oriented activities. (Am J Addict 2013; 22:271–276)