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Interpersonal Discrimination and the Health of Illicit Drug Users

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Young, M., J. Stuber, J. Ahern, and Sandro Galea. 2005. "Interpersonal Discrimination and the Health of Illicit Drug Users." American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 31(3): 371-391.

Although discrimination has been shown to adversely affect the health of marginalized populations, there is a paucity of research on the health impacts of discrimination experienced by illicit drug users. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between interpersonal discrimination and the mental and physical health of illicit drug users taking into account several potential confounding factors. A sample of 1,008 active illicit substance users (defined as having used cocaine, crack, or heroin in the previous 2 months) were recruited in three New York City neighborhoods between August 2000 and January 2001 using street-outreach techniques. Discrimination due to illicit drug use was the most common form of interpersonal discrimination experienced and more than one-half the study participants reported experiencing discrimination due to more than one attribute. Discrimination was significantly associated with poor mental health (measured by the SF-36 mental health score), depression (measured by the CES-D), and the number of self-reported chronic physical health conditions. The presence of multiple stigmatizing characteristics was associated with poorer mental and physical health. Discrimination may contribute to poor mental and physical health in this marginalized population, potentially complicating the provision of substance abuse treatment.

DOI:10.1081/ADA-200056772 (Full Text)

Country of focus: United States.

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