The relationship between age and risky injecting behaviours among a sample of Australian people who inject drugs
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Background: Limited evidence suggests that younger people who inject drugs (PWID) engage in high-risk injecting behaviours. This study aims to better understand the relationships between age and risky injecting behaviours. Methods: Data were taken from 11 years of a repeat cross-sectional study of sentinel samples of regular PWID (The Australian Illicit Drug Reporting System, 2001–2011). Multivariable Poisson regression was used to explore the relationship between age and four outcomes of interest: last drug injection occurred in public, receptive needle sharing (past month), experiencing injecting-related problems (e.g. abscess, dirty hit; past month), and non-fatal heroin overdose (past six months). Results: Data from 6795 first-time study participants were analysed (median age: 33 years, interquartile range [IQR]: 27–40; median duration of injecting: 13 years [IQR: 7–20]). After adjusting for factors including duration of injecting, each five year increase in age was associated with significant reductions in public injecting (adjusted incidence rate ratio [AIRR]: 0.90, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.88–0.92), needle sharing (AIRR: 0.84, 95% CI: 0.79–0.89) and injecting-related problems (AIRR: 0.96, 95% CI: 0.95–0.97). Among those who had injected heroin in the six months preceding interview, each five year increase in age was associated with an average 10% reduction in the risk of heroin overdose (AIRR: 0.90, 95% CI: 0.85–0.96). Conclusions: Older PWID report significantly lower levels of high-risk injecting practices than younger PWID. Although they make up a small proportion of the current PWID population, younger PWID remain an important group for prevention and harm reduction.
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