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1.  Risk factors for elevated HIV incidence among Aboriginal injection drug users in Vancouver 
Because of established links between entrenched poverty and risk of HIV infection, there have long been warnings that HIV/AIDS will disproportionately affect Aboriginal people in Canada. We compared HIV incidence rates among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal injection drug users (IDUs) in Vancouver and studied factors associated with HIV seroconversion among Aboriginal participants.
This analysis was based on 941 participants (230 Aboriginal people) recruited between May 1996 and December 2000 who were seronegative at enrolment and had completed at least one follow-up visit. Incidence rates were calculated using the Kaplan–Meier method. The Cox proportional hazards regression model was used to identify independent predictors of time to HIV seroconversion among female and male Aboriginal IDUs.
As of May 31, 2001, seroconversion had occurred in 112 (11.9%) of the participants, yielding a cumulative incidence of HIV infection at 42 months of 12.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] 10.3%–15.1%). The cumulative incidence at 42 months was significantly higher among the Aboriginal participants than among the non-Aboriginal participants (21.1% v. 10.7%, p < 0.001). This elevation in risk was present in both female and male Aboriginal IDUs. Among the female Aboriginal IDUs, frequent speedball (combined cocaine and heroin) injection (adjusted relative risk [RR] 3.1; 95% CI 1.4–7.1) and going on binges of injection drug use (adjusted RR 2.3; 95% CI 1.0–5.2) were found to be independent predictors of HIV seroconversion. Among the male Aboriginal IDUs, the independent predictors of seroconversion were frequent speedball injection (adjusted RR 2.9; 95% CI 1.0–8.5) and frequent cocaine injection (adjusted RR 2.5; 95% CI 1.0–6.5).
In Vancouver, Aboriginal IDUs are becoming HIV positive at twice the rate of non-Aboriginal IDUs. Our findings emphasize the urgent need for an appropriate and effective public health strategy — planned and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal AIDS service organizations and the Aboriginal community — to reduce the harms of injection drug use in this population.
PMCID: PMC139313  PMID: 12515780
2.  The cost-effectiveness of Vancouver's supervised injection facility 
The cost-effectiveness of Canada's only supervised injection facility has not been rigorously evaluated. We estimated the impact of the facility on survival, rates of HIV and hepatitis C virus infection, referral to methadone maintenance treatment and associated costs.
We simulated the population of Vancouver, British Columbia, including injection drug users and persons infected with HIV and hepatitis C virus. The model used a time horizon of 10 years and the perspective of the health care system. We compared the situation of the supervised injection facility with one that had no facility but that had other interventions, such as needle-exchange programs. The effects considered were decreased needle sharing, increased use of safe injection practices and increased referral to methadone maintenance treatment. Outcomes included life-years gained, costs, and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios discounted at 5% per year.
Focusing on the base assumption of decreased needle sharing as the only effect of the supervised injection facility, we found that the facility was associated with an incremental net savings of almost $14 million and 920 life-years gained over 10 years. When we also considered the health effect of increased use of safe injection practices, the incremental net savings increased to more than $20 million and the number of life-years gained to 1070. Further increases were estimated when we considered all 3 health benefits: the incremental net savings was more than $18 million and the number of life-years gained 1175. Results were sensitive to assumptions related to injection frequency, the risk of HIV transmission through needle sharing, the frequency of safe injection practices among users of the facility, the costs of HIV-related care and of operating the facility, and the proportion of users who inject in the facility.
Vancouver's supervised injection site is associated with improved health and cost savings, even with conservative estimates of efficacy.
PMCID: PMC2582765  PMID: 19015565
3.  Sex work involvement among women with long-term opioid injection drug dependence who enter opioid agonist treatment 
Substitution with opioid-agonists (e.g., methadone) has shown to be an effective treatment for chronic long-term opioid dependency. Survival sex work, very common among injection drug users, has been associated with poor Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) engagement, retention and response. Therefore, this study was undertaken to determine factors associated with engaging in sex work among long-term opioid dependent women receiving OAT.
Data from a randomized controlled trial, the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI), conducted in Vancouver and Montreal (Canada) between 2005-2008, was analyzed. The NAOMI study compared the effectiveness of oral methadone to injectable diacetylmorphine or injectable hydromorphone, the last two on a double blind basis, over 12 months. A research team, independent of the clinic services, obtained outcome evaluations at baseline and follow-up (3, 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months).
A total 53.6% of women reported engaging in sex work in at least one of the research visits. At treatment initiation, women who were younger and had fewer years of education were more likely to be engaged in sex work. The multivariate logistic generalized estimating equation regression analysis determined that psychological symptoms, and high illicit heroin and cocaine use correlated with women's involvement in sex work during the study period.
After entering OAT, women using injection drugs and engaging in sex work represent a particularly vulnerable group showing poorer psychological health and a higher use of heroin and cocaine compared to women not engaging in sex work. These factors must be taken into consideration in the planning and provision of OAT in order to improve treatment outcomes.
Trial Registration
PMCID: PMC3281790  PMID: 22276954
Sex work; opioid dependence; substitution treatment
4.  Full participation in harm reduction programmes is associated with decreased risk for human immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis C virus: evidence from the Amsterdam Cohort Studies among drug users 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2007;102(9):1454-1462.
To investigate the impact of harm-reduction programmes on HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) incidence among ever-injecting drug users (DU) from the Amsterdam Cohort Studies (ACS).
The association between use of harm reduction and seroconversion for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and/or hepatitis C virus (HCV) was evaluated using Poisson regression. A total of 714 DU were at risk for HIV and/or HCV during follow-up. Harm reduction was measured by combining its two most important components—methadone dose and needle exchange programme (NEP) use—and looking at five categories of participation, ranging from no participation (no methadone in the past 6 months, injecting drug use in the past 6 months and no use of NEP) to full participation (≥ 60 mg methadone/day and no current injecting or ≥ 60 mg methadone/day and current injecting but all needles exchanged).
Methadone dose or NEP use alone were not associated significantly with HIV or HCV seroconversion. However, with combination of these variables and after correction for possibly confounding variables, we found that full participation in a harm reduction programme (HRP) was associated with a lower risk of HIV and HCV infection in ever-injecting drug users (DU), compared to no participation [incidence rate ratio 0.43 (95% CI 0.21–0.87) and 0.36 (95% CI 0.13–1.03), respectively].
In conclusion, we found that full participation in HRP was associated with a lower incidence of HCV and HIV infection in ever-injecting DU, indicating that combined prevention measures—but not the use of NEP or methadone alone—might contribute to the reduction of the spread of these infections.
PMCID: PMC2040242  PMID: 17697278
Harm reduction; hepatitis C virus; HIV; injecting drug use; methadone; needle exchange programmes
5.  NAOMI: The trials and tribulations of implementing a heroin assisted treatment study in North America 
Opioid addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease and remains a major public health challenge. Despite important expansions of access to conventional treatments, there are still significant proportions of affected individuals who remain outside the reach of the current treatment system and who contribute disproportionately to health care and criminal justice costs as well as to public disorder associated with drug addiction.
The NAOMI study is a Phase III randomized clinical trial comparing injectable heroin maintenance to oral methadone. The study has ethics board approval at its Montréal and Vancouver sites, as well as from the University of Toronto, the New York Academy of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University.
The main objective of the NAOMI Study is to determine whether the closely supervised provision of injectable, pharmaceutical-grade opioid agonist is more effective than methadone alone in recruiting, retaining, and benefiting chronic, opioid-dependent, injection drug users who are resistant to current standard treatment options.
The case study submitted chronicles the challenges of getting a heroin assisted treatment trial up and running in North America. It describes: a brief background on opioid addiction; current standard therapies for opioid addiction; why there is/was a need for a heroin assisted treatment trial; a description of heroin assisted treatment; the beginnings of creating the NAOMI study in North America; what is the NAOMI study; the science and politics of the NAOMI study; getting NAOMI started in Canada; various requirements and restrictions in getting the study up and running; recruitment into the study; working with the media; a status report on the study; and a brief conclusion from the authors' perspectives.
Results and conclusion
As this is a case study, there are no specific results or main findings listed. The case study focuses on: the background of the study; what it took to get the study started in Canada; the unique requirements and conditions of getting a site, and the study, approved; working with the media; recruitment into the study; a brief status report on the study; and a brief conclusion from the authors' perspectives.
Trail Registration registration number: NCT00175357
PMCID: PMC2639576  PMID: 19159475
6.  Prevalence and incidence of hepatitis C virus infection among Aboriginal young people who use drugs: results from the Cedar Project 
Open Medicine  2009;3(4):e220-e227.
We sought to estimate the prevalence and incidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among Aboriginal young people who use drugs and to identify risk factors associated with HCV infection in this population.
The Cedar Project is a longitudinal study involving Aboriginal young people living in Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia. Eligibility criteria include age from 14 to 30 years and self-reported use (smoking or injection) of illicit drugs (e.g., crystal methamphetamine, crack cocaine, heroin or other opiates, and cocaine) at least once in the month before enrolment. At each visit, participants completed a detailed questionnaire administered by an Aboriginal interviewer. For this analysis, we included information for 512 participants who were recruited between September 2003 and April 2005.
Among the 512 participants, the prevalence of HCV infection was 34.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 30.6%–38.9%); the rates were similar in Prince George and Vancouver (34.5% and 35.0% respectively, p = 0.37). Among those who reported the use of injection drugs at baseline (n = 286), the prevalence of HCV infection was 59.4% (95% CI 53.8%–65.1%); the rate in this group was slightly higher in Prince George than in Vancouver (62.4% v. 57.1% respectively, p = 0.37). The prevalence was 3.5% among participants who reported smoking drugs (n = 226). In the multivariate logistic regression analysis, factors significantly associated with HCV infection among participants who used injection drugs included daily injection of opiates (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.7, 95% CI 1.0–7.4), reuse of syringes (adjusted OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.3–4.4), having at least 1 parent who attended residential school (adjusted OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1–3.4), female sex (adjusted OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1–3.4) and duration of injection drug use (per year) (adjusted OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.3–1.5). The crude incidence rate of HCV infection was 10.6% and the incidence density estimate was 9.9 per 100 person-years in this cohort.
The prevalence of HCV infection was elevated among Aboriginal young people living in Prince George and Vancouver who use drugs. Culturally based prevention, treatment and harm-reduction programs are urgently needed in this population.
PMCID: PMC3090112  PMID: 21688759
7.  HIV and hepatitis C virus test uptake at methadone clinics in Southern China: opportunities for expanding detection of bloodborne infections 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:899.
HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) co-infection is highly common among Chinese injection drug users but it is difficult to reach IDUs at traditional VCT (Voluntary HIV counseling treatment) clinics. A new national model integrating HIV/HCV testing with methadone maintenance treatment was started in 2006. The purpose of this study was to investigate HIV and HCV test uptake and associated factors at methadone clinics in Guangdong Province, China.
A cross-sectional design using routine surveillance data and laboratory testing confirmation was applied to determine rates of HIV and HCV test uptake. Multi-level modeling was used to examine individual-level and clinic-level correlates of increased test uptake.
45 out of 49 methadone clinics in Guangdong Province agreed to participate in the study. Among all 13,270 individuals, 10,046 (75.7%) had HIV test uptake and 10,404 (78.4%) had HCV uptake. At the individual level, methadone clients 30 years or older were more likely to have HIV and HCV test uptake (p <0.001 for both). At the clinic level, methadone clinics with greater health care personnel were more likely to have HIV (p =0.01) and HCV (p = 0.044) test uptake. HIV test uptake significantly correlated with HCV test uptake (correlation coefficient=0.64).
Methadone clinics provide an opportunity for routine integrated HIV and HCV screening among drug users in China. Increased test uptake in young drug users and increased health care personnel at clinics may further improve screening.
PMCID: PMC3849682  PMID: 24079351
Bloodborne infections; Testing uptake; Methadone maintenance treatment clinic
8.  Methadone induction in primary care (ANRS-Methaville): a phase III randomized intervention trial 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:488.
In France, the rapid scale-up of buprenorphine, an opioid maintenance treatment (OMT), in primary care for drug users has led to an impressive reduction in HIV prevalence among injecting drug users (IDU) but has had no major effect on Hepatitis C incidence. To date, patients willing to start methadone can only do so in a methadone clinic (a medical centre for drug and alcohol dependence (CSAPA) or a hospital setting) and are referred to primary care physicians after dose stabilization. This study aims to assess the effectiveness of methadone in patients who initiated treatment in primary care compared with those who initiated it in a CSAPA, by measuring abstinence from street opioid use after one year of treatment.
The ANRS-Methaville study is a randomized multicenter non-inferiority control trial comparing methadone induction (lasting approximately 2 weeks) in primary care and in CSAPA. The model of care chosen for methadone induction in primary care was based on study-specific pre-training of all physicians, exclusion criteria and daily supervision of methadone during the initiation phase. Between January 2009 and January 2011, 10 sites each having one CSAPA and several primary care physicians, were identified to recruit patients to be randomized into two groups, one starting methadone in primary care (n = 147), the other in CSAPA (n = 48). The primary outcome of the study is the proportion of participants abstinent from street opioids after 1 year of treatment i.e. non-inferiority of primary care model in terms of the proportion of patients not using street opioids compared with the proportion observed in those starting methadone in a CSAPA.
The ANRS-Methaville study is the first in France to use an interventional trial to improve access to OMT for drug users. Once the non-inferiority results become available, the Ministry of Health and agency for the safety of health products may change the the New Drug Application (NDA) of methadone and make methadone induction by trained primary care physicians possible.
The trial is registered with the French Agency of Pharmaceutical Products (AFSSAPS) under the number 2008-A0277-48, the European Union Drug Regulating Authorities Clinical Trials.
Number Eudract 2008-001338-28, the Identifier: NCT00657397 and the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register ISRCTN31125511.
PMCID: PMC3528472  PMID: 22741944
Methadone; Primary care; Initiation; Overdose; Opioid use; Opioid maintenance treatment
9.  Elevated rates of HIV infection among young Aboriginal injection drug users in a Canadian setting 
Recent reports have suggested that Aboriginal and American Indian people are at elevated risk of HIV infection. We undertook the present study to compare socio-demographic and risk variables between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young (aged 13 – 24 years) injection drug users (IDUs) and characterize the burden of HIV infection among young Aboriginal IDUs.
We compared socio-demographic and risk variables between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young IDUs. Data were collected through the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study (VIDUS). Semi-annually, participants have completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire and have undergone serologic testing for HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV).
To date over 1500 Vancouver IDU have been enrolled and followed, among whom 291 were aged 24 years and younger. Of the 291 young injectors, 80 (27%) were Aboriginal. In comparison to non-Aboriginal youth, Aboriginal youth were more likely to test seropositive for either HIV (20% vs 7%, p=< 0.001) or Hepatitis C virus (HCV) (66% vs 38%, p =< 0.001), be involved in sex work and live in the city's IDU epi-centre at baseline. After 48 months of follow-up, Aboriginal youth experienced significantly higher HIV seroconversion rates than non-Aboriginal youth, 27.8 per ppy (95% CI: 13.4–42.2) vs. 7.0 per ppy (95% CI: 2.3–11.8) respectively (log-rank p = 0.005) and the incidence density over the entire follow-up period was 12.6 per 100 pyrs (CI: 6.49–21.96) and 3.9 per 100 pyrs (CI: 1.8–7.3) respectively.
These findings demonstrate that culturally relevant, evidence based prevention programs are urgently required to prevent HIV infection among Aboriginal youth.
PMCID: PMC1431516  PMID: 16524484
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2010;105(5):907-913.
Despite proven benefits of antiretroviral therapy (ART), many HIV-infected injection drug users (IDU) do not access treatment even in settings with free health care. We examined whether methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) increased initiation and adherence to ART among an IDU population with free health care.
We prospectively examined a cohort of opioid-using antiretroviral-naïve HIV-infected IDU and investigated factors associated with initiation of antiretroviral therapy as well as subsequent adherence. Factors independently associated with time to first initiation of antiretroviral therapy were modelled using Cox proportional hazards regression.
Between May 1996 and April 2008, 231 antiretroviral-naïve HIV-infected opioid using IDU were enrolled, among whom 152 (65.8%) initiated ART, for an incidence density of 30.5 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 25.9–35.6) per 100 person-years. After adjustment for time-updated clinical characteristics and other potential confounders, use of MMT was independently associated with more rapid uptake of antiretroviral therapy (relative hazard = 1.62 [95% CI: 1.15–2.28]; p = 0.006). Those prescribed methadone also had higher rates of ART adherence after first antiretroviral initiation (odds ratio = 1.49 [95% CI: 1.07–2.08]; p = 0.019).
These results demonstrate that MMT contributes to more rapid initiation and subsequent adherence to ART among opioid-using HIV-infected IDU. Addressing international barriers to the use and availability of methadone may dramatically increase uptake of HIV treatment among this population.
PMCID: PMC2857602  PMID: 20331553
HIV; AIDS; methadone; ART; Vancouver; Canada
11.  Are Opioid Dependence and Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) Documented in the Medical Record? A Patient Safety Issue 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2009;24(9):1007-1011.
Opioid-dependent patients often have co-occurring chronic illnesses requiring medications that interact with methadone. Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is typically provided separately from medical care. Hence, coordination of medical care and substance use treatment is important to preserve patient safety.
To identify potential safety risks among MMT patients engaged in medical care by evaluating the frequency that opioid dependence and MMT documentation are missing in medical records and characterizing potential medication-methadone interactions.
Among patients from a methadone clinic who received primary care from an affiliated, but separate, medical center, we reviewed electronic medical records for documentation of methadone, opioid dependence, and potential drug-methadone interactions. The proportions of medical records without opioid dependence and methadone documentation were estimated and potential medication-methadone interactions were identified.
Among the study subjects ( = 84), opioid dependence documentation was missing from the medical record in 30% (95% CI, 20%–41%) and MMT documentation was missing from either the last primary care note or the last hospital discharge summary in 11% (95% CI, 5%-19%). Sixty-nine percent of the study subjects had at least 1 medication that potentially interacted with methadone; 19% had 3 or more potentially interacting medications.
Among patients receiving MMT and medical care at different sites, documentation of opioid dependence and MMT in the medical record occurs for the majority, but is missing in a substantial number of patients. Most of these patients are prescribed medications that potentially interact with methadone. This study highlights opportunities for improved coordination between medical care and MMT.
PMCID: PMC2726880  PMID: 19578820
methadone; medication interactions; patient safety; care coordination
12.  Methadone use among HIV-positive injection drug users in a Canadian setting 
We examined methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) use among HIV-positive injection drug users (IDU) in Vancouver. Among 353 participants, 199 (56.3%) were on MMT at baseline, and 48 initiated MMT during follow-up. Female gender (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.73, 95% CI: 1.14 – 2.62) and antiretroviral therapy use (AOR = 2.04, 95% CI: 1.46 – 2.86) were positively associated with MMT use, while frequent heroin injection (AOR = 0.34, 95% CI: 0.23–0.50), public injection (AOR = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.59 – 0.97), syringe borrowing (AOR = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.32 – 0.90), and non-fatal overdose (AOR = 0.58, 95% CI: 0.36 – 0.92) were negatively associated with MMT use. The rate of discontinuation of MMT was 12.46 (95% CI: 8.28 – 18.00) per 100 person years. Frequent heroin use (adjusted hazards ratio = 4.49, 95%CI: 1.81 – 11.13) was positively associated with subsequent discontinuation of MMT. These findings demonstrate the benefits of MMT among HIV-positive IDU and the need to improve access to and retention in MMT.
PMCID: PMC2910820  PMID: 20598827
methadone; injection drug use; HIV
13.  Superior methadone treatment outcome in Hmong compared to non-Hmong patients 
The Hmong are a distinct ethnic group from Laos. Little is known about how opiate addicted Hmong respond to methadone maintenance treatment. Therefore, opium addicted Hmong (exclusive route of administration: smoking) attending an urban methadone maintenance program in Minneapolis, Minnesota were matched by gender and date of admission with predominately heroin addicted non-Hmong (predominant route of administration: injection) attending the same program and both groups were evaluated for 1-year treatment retention, stabilization dose of methadone, and urine drug screen results. Hmong had greater 1-year treatment retention (79.8%) than non-Hmong (63.5%; p<0.01). In both groups, methadone dose was significantly associated with retention (p=0.005). However, Hmong required lower doses of methadone for stabilization (mean 49.0 mg versus 77.1 mg; p<0.0001). For both groups, positive urine drug screens were associated with stopping treatment. Further research to determine levels of tolerance, psychosocial, and pharmacogenetic factors contributing to differences methadone treatment outcome and dosing in Hmong may provide further insight into opiate addiction and its treatment.
PMCID: PMC3340471  PMID: 22285835
Methadone; opiate dependence; treatment outcome; ethnicity; Hmong
14.  Multilevel Predictors of Concurrent Opioid Use during Methadone Maintenance Treatment among Drug Users with HIV/AIDS 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51569.
Ongoing drug use during methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) negatively affects outcomes of HIV/AIDS care and treatment for drug users. This study assessed changes in opioid use, and longitudinal predictors of continued opioid use during MMT among HIV-positive drug users in Vietnam, with the aim of identifying changes that might enhance program efficacy.
We analyze data of 370 HIV-positive drug users (mean age 29.5; 95.7% male) taking MMT at multi-sites. Opioid use was assessed at baseline, 3, 6, and 9 months using interviews and heroin confirmatory urine tests. A social ecological model was applied to explore multilevel predictors of continued opioid use, including individual, interpersonal, community and service influences. Generalized estimating equations (GEE) statistical models were constructed to adjust for intra-individual correlations.
Over 9 month follow-up, self-reported opioid use and positive heroin urine test substantially decreased to 14.6% and 14.4%. MMT helped improve referrals and access to health care and social services. However, utilization of social integration services was small. GEE models determined that participants who were older (Adjusted Odd Ratio - AOR = 0.97 for 1 year increase), had economic dependents (AOR = 0.33), or were referred to TB treatment (AOR = 0.53) were less likely to continue opioid use. Significant positive predictors of ongoing opioid use included frequency of opioid use prior to MMT, peer pressure, living with sexual partners, taking antiretroviral treatment, other health concerns and TB treatment.
These findings show that MMT in the Vietnamese context can dramatically reduce opioid use, which is known to be associated with reduced antiretroviral (ART) adherence. Disease stage and drug interactions between antiretrovirals or TB drugs and MMT could explain some of the observed predictors of ongoing drug use; these findings could inform changes in MMT program design and implementation.
PMCID: PMC3520938  PMID: 23251580
15.  Incarceration and opioid withdrawal: The experiences of methadone patients and out-of-treatment heroin users 
Journal of psychoactive drugs  2009;41(2):145-152.
Both heroin-addicted individuals and methadone maintenance patients are likely to face untreated opioid withdrawal while incarcerated. Limited research exists concerning the withdrawal experiences of addicted inmates and their impact on individuals’ attitudes and plans concerning drug abuse treatment. In the present study, 53 opioid dependent adults (32 in methadone treatment and 21 out-of-treatment) were interviewed in an ethnographic investigation of withdrawal experiences during incarceration. When treatment for opioid withdrawal was unavailable, detoxification experiences were usually described as negative and were often associated with a variety of unhealthy behaviors designed to relieve withdrawal symptoms. Negative methadone withdrawal experiences also negatively influenced participants’ receptivity to seeking methadone treatment upon release. A minority of participants took a positive view of their withdrawal experience and saw it as an opportunity to detox from heroin or discontinue methadone. Findings support the importance of providing appropriate opioid detoxification and/or maintenance therapy to opioid dependent inmates.
PMCID: PMC2838492  PMID: 19705676
Opioid addiction; Incarceration; Withdrawal; Methadone; Ethnography
16.  HIV seroprevalence among participants at a Supervised Injection Facility in Vancouver, Canada: implications for prevention, care and treatment 
North America's first government sanctioned medically supervised injection facility (SIF) was opened during September 2003 in Vancouver, Canada. This was in response to a large open public drug scene, high rates of HIV and hepatitis C transmission, fatal drug overdoses, and poor health outcomes among the city's injection drug users. Between December 2003 and April 2005, a representative sample of 1,035 SIF participants were enrolled in a prospective cohort that required completing an interviewer-administered questionnaire and providing a blood sample for HIV testing. HIV infection was detected in 170/1007 (17%) participants and was associated with Aboriginal ethnicity (adjusted Odds Ratio [aOR], 2.70, 95% Confidence Interval [95% CI], 1.84–3.97), a history of borrowing used needles/syringes (aOR, 2.0, 95% CI, 1.37–2.93), previous incarceration (aOR, 1.87, 95% CI, 1.11–3.14), and daily injection cocaine use (aOR, 1.42, 95% CI, 1.00–2.03). The SIF has attracted a large number of marginalized injection drug users and presents an excellent opportunity to enhance HIV prevention through education, the provision of sterile injecting equipment, and a supervised environment to self-inject. In addition, the SIF is an important point of contact for HIV positive individuals who may not be participating in HIV care and treatment.
PMCID: PMC1766348  PMID: 17176481
17.  The Cedar Project: high incidence of HCV infections in a longitudinal study of young Aboriginal people who use drugs in two Canadian cities 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:632.
Factors associated with HCV incidence among young Aboriginal people in Canada are still not well understood. We sought to estimate time to HCV infection and the relative hazard of risk factors associated HCV infection among young Aboriginal people who use injection drugs in two Canadian cities.
The Cedar Project is a prospective cohort study involving young Aboriginal people in Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia, who use illicit drugs. Participants’ venous blood samples were drawn and tested for HCV antibodies. Analysis was restricted to participants who use used injection drugs at enrolment or any of follow up visit. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to identify independent predictors of time to HCV seroconversion.
In total, 45 out of 148 participants seroconverted over the study period. Incidence of HCV infection was 26.3 per 100 person-years (95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 16.3, 46.1) among participants who reported using injection drugs for two years or less, 14.4 per 100 person-years (95% CI: 7.7, 28.9) among participants who had been using injection drugs for between two and five years, and 5.1 per 100 person-years (95% CI: 2.6,10.9) among participants who had been using injection drugs for over five years. Independent associations with HCV seroconversion were involvement in sex work in the last six months (Adjusted Hazard Ratio (AHR): 1.59; 95% CI: 1.05, 2.42) compared to no involvement, having been using injection drugs for less than two years (AHR: 4.14; 95% CI: 1.91, 8.94) and for between two and five years (AHR: 2.12; 95%CI: 0.94, 4.77) compared to over five years, daily cocaine injection in the last six months (AHR: 2.47; 95% CI: 1.51, 4.05) compared to less than daily, and sharing intravenous needles in the last six months (AHR: 2.56; 95% CI: 1.47, 4.49) compared to not sharing.
This study contributes to the limited body of research addressing HCV infection among Aboriginal people in Canada. The HCV incidence rate among Cedar Project participants who were new initiates of injection drug use underscores an urgent need for HCV and injection prevention and safety strategies aimed at supporting young people surviving injection drug use and sex work in both cities. Young people must be afforded the opportunity to provide leadership and input in the development of prevention programming.
PMCID: PMC3490797  PMID: 22877418
18.  Why don’t out-of-treatment individuals enter methadone treatment programs? 
Despite the proven effectiveness of methadone treatment, the majority of heroin-dependent individuals are out-of-treatment.
Twenty-six opioid-dependent adults who met the criteria for methadone maintenance who were neither seeking methadone treatment at the time of study enrollment, nor had participated in such treatment during the past 12 months, were recruited from the streets of Baltimore, Maryland through targeted sampling. Ethnographic interviews were conducted to ascertain participants’ attitudes toward methadone treatment and their reasons for not seeking treatment.
Barriers to treatment entry included: waiting lists, lack of money or health insurance, and requirements to possess a photo identification card. For some participants, beliefs about methadone such as real or rumored side effects, fear of withdrawal from methadone during an incarceration, or disinterest in adhering to the structure of treatment programs kept them from applying. In addition, other participants were not willing to commit to indefinite “maintenance” but would have accepted shorter time-limited methadone treatment.
Barriers to treatment entry could be overcome by an infusion of public financial support to expand treatment access, which would reduce or eliminate waiting lists, waive treatment-related fees, and/or provide health insurance coverage for treatment. Treatment programs could overcome some of the barriers by waiving their photo I.D. requirements, permitting time-limited treatment with the option to extend such treatment upon request, and working with corrections agencies to ensure continued methadone treatment upon incarceration.
PMCID: PMC2790538  PMID: 18805686
heroin addicts; methadone treatment; out-of-treatment
19.  Correlates of illicit methadone use in New York City: A cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2008;8:375.
Despite growing concern about illicit methadone use in the US and other countries, there is little data about the prevalence and correlates of methadone use in large urban areas. We assessed the prevalence and examined correlates of lifetime and recent illicit methadone use in New York City (NYC).
1,415 heroin, crack, and cocaine users aged 15–40 years were recruited in NYC between 2000 and 2004 to complete interviewer-administered questionnaires.
In multivariable logistic regression, non-injection drug users who used illicit methadone were more likely to be heroin dependent, less than daily methamphetamine users and to have a heroin using sex partner in the last two months. Injection drug users who used illicit methadone were more likely to use heroin daily, share injection paraphernalia and less likely to have been in a detoxification program and to have not used marijuana in the last six months.
The results overall suggest that illicit (or street) methadone use is likely not a primary drug of choice, but is instead more common in concert with other illicit drug use.
PMCID: PMC2588458  PMID: 18957116
20.  Clinical characteristics and risk behavior as a function of HIV status among heroin users enrolled in methadone treatment in northern Taiwan 
Methadone treatment was introduced in Taiwan in 2006 as a harm-reduction program in response to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is endemic among Taiwanese heroin users. The present study was aimed at examining the clinical and behavioral characteristics of methadone patients in northern Taiwan according to their HIV status.
The study was conducted at four methadone clinics. Participants were patients who had undergone methadone treatment at the clinics and who voluntarily signed a consent form. Between August and November 2008, each participant completed a face-to-face interview that included questions on demographics, risk behavior, quality of life, and psychiatric symptoms. Data on HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, methadone dosage, and morphine in the urine were retrieved from patient files on the clinical premises, with permission of the participants.
Of 576 participants, 71 were HIV positive, and 514 had hepatitis C. There were significant differences between the HIV-positive and HIV-negative groups on source of treatment payment, HCV infection, urine test results, methadone dosage, and treatment duration. The results indicate that HIV-negative heroin users were more likely to have sexual intercourse and not use condoms during the 6 months prior to the study. A substantial percent of the sample reported anxiety (21.0%), depression (27.2%), memory loss (32.7%), attempted suicide (32.7%), and administration of psychiatric medications (16.1%). There were no significant differences between the HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients on psychiatric symptoms or quality of life.
HIV-positive IDUs were comorbid with HCV, indicating the need to refer both HIV- and HCV-infected individuals for treatment in methadone clinics. Currently, there is a gap between psychiatric/psychosocial services and patient symptoms, and more integrated medical services should be provided to heroin-using populations.
PMCID: PMC3079677  PMID: 21473789
21.  Methadone Maintenance Therapy in Vietnam: An Overview and Scaling-Up Plan 
Vietnam is among the countries with the highest rate of HIV transmission through injecting drug users. HIV prevalence among injecting drug users is 20% and up to 50% in many provinces. An estimated number of drug users in the country by the end of 2011 were 171,000 in which the most common is heroin (85%). Detoxification at home, community, and in rehabilitation centers have been the main modalities for managing heroin addiction until Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) was piloted in 2008. Recent reports have demonstrated positive treatment outcomes. Incidence of HIV was found remarkably low among patients on MMT. Treatment has significantly improved the quality of life as well as stability for society. The government has granted the Ministry of Health (MoH) to expand Methadone treatment to at least 30 provinces to provide treatment for more than 80,000 drug users by 2015. The Vietnam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC) and MOH have outlined the role and responsibility of key departments at the central and local levels in implementing and maintaining MMT treatment. This paper will describe the achievements of the MMT pilot program and the scaling-up plan as well as strategies to ensure quality and sustainability and to overcome the challenges in the coming years.
PMCID: PMC3512212  PMID: 23227351
22.  Does Cannabis Use Predict Poor Outcome for Heroin-Dependent Patients on Maintenance Treatment? A Review of Past Findings, and More Evidence Against 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2003;98(3):269-279.
To determine whether cannabinoid-positive urine specimens in heroin-dependent outpatients predict other drug use or impairments in psychosocial functioning, and whether such outcomes are better predicted by cannabis-use disorders than by cannabis use itself.
Retrospective analyses of three clinical trials; each included a behavioral intervention (contingency management) for cocaine or heroin use during methadone maintenance. Trials lasted 25–29 weeks; follow-up evaluations occurred 3, 6, and 12 months posttreatment. For the present analyses, data were pooled across trials where appropriate.
Urban outpatient methadone clinic.
408 polydrug abusers meeting methadone-maintenance criteria.
Participants were categorized as nonusers, occasional users, or frequent users of cannabis based on thrice-weekly qualitative urinalyses. Cannabis-use disorders were assessed with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule III-R. Outcome measures included proportion of cocaine- and opiate-positive urines and the Addiction Severity Index (at intake and follow-ups).
Cannabis use was not associated with retention, use of cocaine or heroin, or any other outcome measure during or after treatment. Our analyses had a power of .95 to detect an r2 of .11 between cannabis use and heroin or cocaine use; the r2 we detected was less than .03 and nonsignificant. A previous finding that cannabis use predicted lapse to heroin use in heroin-abstinent patients did not replicate in our sample. However, cannabis-use disorders were weakly associated with psychosocial problems at posttreatment follow-up.
Cannabinoid-positive urines need not be a major focus of clinical attention during treatment for opiate dependence, unless patients report symptoms of cannabis-use disorders.
PMCID: PMC2943839  PMID: 12603227
cannabis; methadone maintenance; treatment outcome
23.  Syncope and QT prolongation among patients treated with methadone for heroin dependence in the city of Copenhagen 
Heart  2007;93(9):1051-1055.
Methadone is prescribed to heroin addicts to decrease illicit opioid use. Prolongation of the QT interval in the ECG of patients with torsade de pointes (TdP) has been reported in methadone users. As heroin addicts sometimes faint while using illicit drugs, doctors might attribute too many episodes of syncope to illicit drug use and thereby underestimate the incidence of TdP in this special population, and the high mortality in this population may, in part, be caused by the proarrhythmic effect of methadone.
In this cross‐sectional study interview, ECGs and blood samples were collected in a population of adult heroin addicts treated with methadone or buprenorphine on a daily basis. Of the patients at the Drug Addiction Service in the municipal of Copenhagen, 450 (∼52%) were included. The QT interval was estimated from 12 lead ECGs. All participants were interviewed about any experience of syncope. The association between opioid dose and QT, and methadone dose and reporting of syncope was assessed using multivariate linear regression and logistic regression, respectively.
Methadone dose was associated with longer QT interval of 0.140 ms/mg (p = 0.002). No association between buprenorphine and QTc was found. Among the subjects treated with methadone, 28% men and 32% women had prolonged QTc interval. None of the subjects treated with buprenorphine had QTc interval >0.440s½. A 50 mg higher methadone dose was associated with a 1.2 (95% CI 1.1 to 1.4) times higher odds for syncope.
Methadone is associated with QT prolongation and higher reporting of syncope in a population of heroin addicts.
PMCID: PMC1955005  PMID: 17344330
24.  The Cedar Project: risk factors for transition to injection drug use among young, urban Aboriginal people 
Studies suggest that Aboriginal people in Canada are over-represented among people using injection drugs. The factors associated with transitioning to the use of injection drugs among young Aboriginal people in Canada are not well understood.
The Cedar Project is a prospective cohort study (2003–2007) involving young Aboriginal people in Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia, who use illicit drugs. Participants’ venous blood samples were tested for antibodies to HIV and the hepatitis C virus, and drug use was confirmed using saliva screens. The primary outcomes were use of injection drugs at baseline and tranisition to injection drug use in the six months before each follow-up interview.
Of 605 participants, 335 (55.4%) reported using injection drugs at baseline. Young people who used injection drugs tended to be older than those who did not, female and in a relationship. Participants who injected drugs were also more likely than those who did not to have been denied shelter because of their drug use, to have been incarcerated, to have a mental illness and to have been involved in sex work. Transition to injection drug use occurred among 39 (14.4%) participants, yielding a crude incidence rate of 19.8% and an incidence density of 11.5 participants per 100 person-years. In unadjusted analysis, transition to injection drug use was associated with being female (odds ratio [OR] 1.98, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06–3.72), involved in sex work (OR 3.35, 95% CI 1.75–6.40), having a history of sexually transmitted infection (OR 2.01, 95% CI 1.07–3.78) and using drugs with sex-work clients (OR 2.51, 95% CI 1.19–5.32). In adjusted analysis, transition to injection drug use remained associated with involvement in sex work (adjusted OR 3.94, 95% CI 1.45–10.71).
The initiation rate for injection drug use of 11.5 participants per 100 person-years among participants in the Cedar Project is distressing. Young Aboriginal women in our study were twice as likely to inject drugs as men, and participants who injected drugs at baseline were more than twice as likely as those who did not to be involved in sex work.
PMCID: PMC3134722  PMID: 21670106
25.  Comparable Efficacy of Contingency Management for Cocaine Dependence Among African American, Hispanic and White Methadone Maintenance Clients 
Cocaine use is a significant problem among methadone maintenance clients. Contingency management (CM) is a reinforcement-based approach with demonstrated efficacy for reducing cocaine use. This study examines whether the efficacy of CM treatment for cocaine-dependent individuals receiving methadone maintenance for opioid dependence differs by ethnicity. Participants were 191 African American, Hispanic and White cocaine-dependent methadone maintenance clients, randomly assigned to standard methadone treatment or standard methadone treatment plus CM for 12 weeks. Hispanic participants were younger, less educated, and reported fewer years of cocaine use than African American and White participants and reported fewer years of heroin use than African American participants. African American participants were less likely to report a history of psychiatric symptoms or treatment compared to Hispanic and White participants. While CM was associated with longer duration of continuous cocaine abstinence and a greater proportion of submitted urine samples negative for cocaine, ethnicity was not related to treatment outcomes, and there was no significant interaction between treatment and ethnicity. CM appears to be an efficacious treatment for cocaine dependence among methadone maintenance clients, regardless of ethnicity.
PMCID: PMC2796365  PMID: 19290703
Ethnicity; Contingency management; Cocaine dependence; Methadone maintenance

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