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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005 Dec 12;80(3):297-302. Epub 2005 Jun 14.

Heroin overdose among young injection drug users in San Francisco.

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  • 1University of California, San Francisco General Hospital, 995 Potrero Avenue, Building 90, Ward 95, Room 513, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.



We sought to identify prevalence and predictors of heroin-related overdose among young injection drug users (IDU).


A total of 795 IDU under age of 30 years were interviewed in four neighbourhoods in San Francisco, California, USA. Participants were recruited as part of a broader study of HIV, hepatitis B and C among injecting drug users in San Francisco using street outreach and snowball techniques. Independent predictors of recent heroin overdose requiring intervention were determined using regression analysis.


Of 795 injecting drug users under age of 30 years, 22% (174/795) of participants reported a heroin overdose in the last year. In stepwise multiple logistic regression, independent predictors of recent heroin overdose were lifetime incarceration exceeding 20 months (odds ratio (OR) = 2.99, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.52-5.88); heroin injection in the last 3 months (OR = 4.89, 95% CI = 2.03-11.74); cocaine injection in the last 3 months (OR = 1.67, 95% CI = 1.14-2.45); injection of heroin mixed with methamphetamine in the last 3 months (OR = 1.74, 95% CI = 1.15-2.65); ever tested for hepatitis B or C (OR = 1.66 per year, CI = 1.09-2.54) and ever having witnessed another person overdose (OR = 2.89, 95% CI = 1.76-4.73).


Individuals with high levels of incarceration are at great risk of overdose, and prison or jail should be considered a primary intervention site. Further research on the role of cocaine and amphetamine in heroin-related overdose is indicated.

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