Comparing key characteristics of young adult crack users in and out-of-treatment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Marcelo Cruz, Neilane Bertoni, Francisco I Bastos, Chantal Burnett, Jenna Gooch, Benedikt Fischer
Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2014 January 10, 9: 2

BACKGROUND: Crack use is prevalent among street drug users in Brazilian cities, yet despite recent help system reforms and investments, treatment utilization is low. Other studies have identified a variety of - often inconsistent - factors associated with treatment status among crack or other drug users. This study compared socio-economic, drug use, health and service use characteristics between samples of young adult crack users in- and out-of-treatment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

FINDINGS: Street-involved crack users (n = 81) were recruited by community-based methods, and privately assessed by way of an anonymous interviewer-administered questionnaire as well as biological methods, following informed consent. In-treatment users (n = 30) were recruited from a public service in-patient treatment facility and assessed based on the same protocol. Key indicators of interest were statistically cross-compared. Not-in-treatment users were less likely to: be white, educated, stably housed, to be involved in drug dealing, to report lifetime marijuana and current alcohol use, to report low mental health status and general health or addiction/mental health care; they were more likely to: be involved in begging and utilize social services, compared to the in-treatment sample (statistical significance for differences set at p < .05).

CONCLUSIONS: In-treatment and not-in-treatment crack users differed on several key characteristics. Overall, in-treatment users appeared to be more socio-economically integrated and connected to the health system, yet not acutely needier in terms of health or drug problems. Given overall low treatment utilization but high need, efforts are required to facilitate improved treatment access and use for marginalized crack users in Brazil.

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