16 Feb US and Columbia Face Generation of Drug Users Becoming Drug Injectors
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, Ph. D.
National Development Research Institutes, Inc.
New York, NY 10010
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Mateu-Gelabert: Heroin production in Colombia increased dramatically in recent decades, and some studies point to an increase in local heroin consumption since the mid-1990s. Despite this rapid increase, little is known about the effects of these activities on heroin injection within Colombia. One of the biggest concerns surrounding heroin injection is the potential spread of HIV through drug user networks.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Mateu-Gelabert: The key take home message in the paper is that a widespread early implementation of harm reduction services (e.g. opioid substitution therapy, HIV testing, syringe exchange programs) can prevent HIV among young PWID (People Who Inject Drugs) before it rapidly spreads within drug injection networks. Reducing HIV among young drug injectors could prevent the spread of HIV from PWID to the general population.
Additionally, it seems Colombia and the US face parallel situations:
- a) Both US and Colombia deal with a new generation of drug users who are becoming drug injectors. In Colombia, driven by heroin production, in the US, driven by the recent epidemic of prescription opioid (PO) misuse which has led many young non-medical users of prescription opioids to transition to heroin and drug injection.
- b) Both countries face the potential risk of HIV and HCV spreading among PWID given their widespread sharing practices. Both Colombia and US have a time-limited opportunity to prevent a possible HIV epidemic among these injection networks by implementing harm reduction interventions among young, newly initiated PWID. The HIV outbreak in Indiana ( see http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6416a4.htm) is a real cautionary tell of such risk.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Mateu-Gelabert: Colombia has an opportunity to prevent an HIV epidemic by implementing harm reduction interventions among People Who Inject Drugs. By highlighting the importance of such interventions in Colombia, this article underscores issues that may have important public health implications for other countries and regions faced with similar emerging heroin markets. Further research on heroin consumption in Colombia and heroin distribution routes to neighboring countries could serve as an early warning regarding the spread of heroin-related HIV epidemics elsewhere in Latin America.
Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, Ph. D. (2016). US and Columbia Face Generation of Drug Users Becoming Drug Injectors