Nonmedical prescription drug users in private vs. Public substance abuse treatment: A cross sectional comparison of demographic and HIV risk behavior profiles

Catherine L. O'Grady, Hilary L. Surratt, Steven P. Kurtz, Maria A. Levi-Minzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Little is known regarding the demographic and behavioral characteristics of nonmedical prescription drug users (NMPDUs) entering substance abuse treatment settings, and information on the HIV-related risk profiles of NMPDUs is especially lacking. Participation in substance abuse treatment provides a critical opportunity for HIV prevention and intervention, but successful initiatives will require services appropriately tailored for the needs of NMPDUs. Methods: This paper compares the HIV risk profiles of NMPDUs in public (n = 246) and private (n = 249) treatment facilities. Participants included in the analysis reported five or more recent episodes of nonmedical prescription drug use, a prior HIV negative test result, and current enrollment in a substance abuse treatment facility. A standardized questionnaire was administered by trained interviewers with questions about demographics, HIV risk, and substance use. Results: Private treatment clients were more likely to be non-Hispanic White, younger, and opioid and heroin users. Injection drug use was higher among private treatment clients, whereas public clients reported higher likelihood of trading or selling sex. Public treatment clients reported higher rates of HIV testing and availability at their treatment facilities compared to private clients. Conclusions: Findings suggest differing demographics, substance use patterns, profiles of HIV risk and access to HIV testing between the two treatment samples. Population tailored HIV interventions, and increased access to HIV testing in both public and private substance treatment centers, appear to be warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalSubstance Abuse: Treatment, Prevention, and Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 4 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse [grant number R01 DA021330]. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of NIDA or the National Institutes of Health. We wish to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Dr. James A. Inciardi, who served as PI of the study until 2009.


  • HIV
  • Nonmedical prescription drug use
  • Substance treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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