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Data on behavioral correlates of mental illness among young people who inject drugs (PWID) are limited. We examine injection risks and healthcare use among young PWID with probable serious mental illness (PSMI). People who inject drugs were recruited and interviewed in 20 US cities for 2015 National HIV Behavioral Surveillance. Probable serious mental illness was assessed using the Kessler-6 screening scale. Bivariate analyses using log-linked Poisson regression with generalized estimating equations adjusted for design covariates were conducted to examine associations between PSMI and behaviors among PWID ages 18-29 years. Of 1769 young PWID, 45% had PSMI. Compared to those without PSMI, PWID with PSMI were more likely to report injecting more than once a day, receptive syringe sharing, sharing of other injection equipment, and unmet needs for medical care and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. Those with PSMI were less likely to use syringe services programs than those without PSMI. Approximately half of young PWID had PSMI. People who inject drugs with PSMI engaged in high-risk injection behaviors and encountered barriers to healthcare. Human immunodeficiency virus prevention programs such as Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) could benefit from screening for mental illness among young PWID and strong linkage to healthcare, including mental health and SUD treatment. Published by Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America 2020.


Monica Adams, Catlainn Sionean, Dita Broz, Rashunda Lewis, Cyprian Wejnert, NHBS Study Group. Serious Mental Illness Among Young People Who Inject Drugs: An Assessment of Injection Risks and Healthcare Use. The Journal of infectious diseases. 2020 Sep 02;222(Suppl 5):S401-S409

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PMID: 32877554

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