Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 299–306 | Cite as

Low-Frequency Heroin Injection among Out-of-Treatment, Street-Recruited Injection Drug Users

  • Jennie L. Harris
  • Jennifer Lorvick
  • Lynn Wenger
  • Tania Wilkins
  • Martin Y. Iguchi
  • Philippe Bourgois
  • Alex H. Kral


In this paper, we explore the understudied phenomenon of “low-frequency” heroin injection in a sample of street-recruited heroin injectors not in drug treatment. We conducted a cross-sectional study of 2,410 active injection drug users (IDUs) recruited in San Francisco, California from 2000 to 2005. We compare the sociodemographic characteristics and injection risk behaviors of low-frequency heroin injectors (low-FHI; one to 10 self-reported heroin injections in the past 30 days) to high-frequency heroin injectors (high-FHI; 30 or more self-reported heroin injections in the past 30 days). Fifteen percent of the sample met criteria for low-FHI. African American race, men who have sex with men (MSM) behavior, and injection and noninjection methamphetamine use were independently associated with low-FHI. Compared to high-FHI, low-FHI were less likely to report syringe sharing and nonfatal heroin overdose. A small but significant proportion of heroin injectors inject heroin 10 or less times per month. Additional research is needed to qualitatively examine low-frequency heroin injection and its relationship to drug use trajectories.


Low-frequency heroin injection Heroin Drug injection Out-of-treatment drug users 



We are grateful for the financial support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse grants R01 DA021627, R01DA023377, and R01 DA010164.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennie L. Harris
    • 1
  • Jennifer Lorvick
    • 2
  • Lynn Wenger
    • 2
  • Tania Wilkins
    • 3
  • Martin Y. Iguchi
    • 4
  • Philippe Bourgois
    • 5
  • Alex H. Kral
    • 2
  1. 1.RTI InternationalResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  2. 2.RTI InternationalSan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services ResearchUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.School of Nursing and Health StudiesGeorgetown UniversityWashington, DCUSA
  5. 5.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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