, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 117-128

Traumatic Event Re-exposure in Injecting Drug Users

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Drug users have very high rates of lifetime exposure to traumatic events, leading to significant psychiatric complications. In spite of the high rate of lifetime exposure, very little is known about the rate of ongoing re-exposure to new traumatic events in drug users. We investigated the rate of traumatic event re-exposure in male and female injecting drug users using syringe exchange services in Baltimore (N = 197). Participants were assessed monthly for traumatic event re-exposure for 16 months. Averaged over the entire follow-up period, 27% of participants were re-exposed to a traumatic event each month and 72% were re-exposed over the 16-month study period. Women were over twice as likely to report any traumatic event re-exposure as men (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.48; 95% CI = 1.54–3.99), with the specific events of life-threatening illness, death of a loved one, and injury or illness of a loved one being more common in women than men. Traumatic event re-exposure occurs far more often than previously reported, with women injecting drug users at the highest risk. Reassessment of traumatic events may help to identify people most in need and encourage entry into treatment.