OBJECTIVE: Drug injection initiation is often assisted by a person who injects drugs (PWID). How often PWID provide this assistance has not been examined. We examine frequency of injection initiation assistance and factors associated with high (4+) and low frequency (1-3) initiation assistance as compared to no initiation assistance among PWID.
METHODS: Participants were 979 Californian PWID. PWID were interviewed about providing injection initiation assistance in the last 6 months among other items. Multinomial regression analysis was used to examine factors associated with levels of frequency of injection initiation assistance.
RESULTS: Among participants, 132 (14%) had initiated 784 people into injection (mean = 5.94 [standard deviation = 20.13]; median = 2, interquartile range = 1,4) in the last 6 months. PWID engaged in high frequency initiation (26% of sample) assisted 662 new initiates (84% of total). Using multinomial regression analysis with no initiating as the referent group, we found that high frequency initiating was statistically associated with higher injection frequency, having a paying sex partner, taking someone to a shooting gallery, and providing injection assistance. Lower frequency initiation was statistically associated with having a paying sex partner, illegal income source, and providing injection assistance.
CONCLUSION: Differences between high and low frequency initiators were not found. Sex work and assisting with drug injection were linked to initiating others. Individual-level interventions that reduce this behavior among PWID and structural interventions such as safe consumption sites and opioid medication treatments that interrupt the social process of injection initiation should be considered as ways to reduce injection initiations.