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J Urban Health. 2001 Dec;78(4):690-8.

Substance abuse and high-risk needle-related behaviors among homeless youth in Minneapolis: implications for prevention.

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  • 1The Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455, USA.


Homeless and runaway youth face a variety of health risks, including those related to substance abuse and use of unsterile needles. During 1998-1999, we recruited 201 Minneapolis homeless youths aged 15-22 years; these youths were interviewed by experienced street outreach workers from settings where street youth were known to congregate. Respondents spent a median of 6 months in the previous year living on the streets or "couch hopping." There were 37% who reported having 15 or more alcoholic drinks per week, 41% smoked 1 pack or more of cigarettes per day, and 37% used marijuana 3 or more times a week; 15% reported lifetime injection drug use, including 6% who used injection drugs within the previous month. Twenty percent had received a tattoo, and 18% body piercing with a needle that had not been sterilized or had been used by someone else. There were 68% who had been tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), 52% for hepatitis B, and 25% for hepatitis C. There were 44% who said they did not have enough information about hepatitis B and C. Less than half (43%) received hepatitis B vaccine; however, 51% of unvaccinated youths indicated that they would receive vaccination if offered. These Midwestern homeless youths face multiple health risks, including those related to substance use and exposure to unsterile needles. Despite unsafe behaviors, many of these youths were interested in methods to protect their health, including education, knowing their HIV or viral hepatitis serostatus, and obtaining hepatitis B immunization.

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