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Drugs, discipline and death: Causes and predictors of mortality among people who inject drugs in Tijuana, 2011-2018.

  • West, Brooke S
  • Abramovitz, Daniela A
  • Gonzalez-Zuniga, Patricia
  • Rangel, Gudelia
  • Werb, Dan
  • Cepeda, Javier
  • Beletsky, Leo
  • Strathdee, Steffanie A
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2020
eScholarship - University of California
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BackgroundPeople who inject drugs (PWID) experience multiple risk factors for mortality; yet, we know little about causes of death among PWID in Tijuana, Mexico, an area with high levels of injecting and changes in policy/law enforcement responses to substance use. This study examines rates, causes, and predictors of mortality among Tijuana PWID.MethodsData come from a community-based cohort of PWID aged ≥18 who injected drugs in the past month. Mortality was confirmed by death certificate over 78 months during 2011-2018. Predictors of mortality were identified using time-updated Cox regression, controlling for age.ResultsAmong 734 participants, there were 130 deaths (54 confirmed, 76 unconfirmed), with an incidence rate of 17.74 deaths per 1000 person-years for confirmed deaths (95% Confidence Interval (CI)=13.01, 22.48) and 39.52 for unconfirmed deaths (CI=32.72, 46.31). Confirmed deaths resulted from homicide/trauma (26%), overdose (26%), septic shock (18%) and HIV-related causes (9%). In multivariable analysis of confirmed deaths, baseline HIV seropositivity (adjusted Hazard Ratio [aHR]=6.77, CI=1.98, 23.17), incident HIV infection (aHR=3.19, CI=1.02, 9.96), and number of times being beaten by police in the past 6 months at baseline (aHR=1.08 per time, CI=1.04, 1.12) were predictive of death; whereas, injection cessation for 6+ months during time at risk (aHR=0.25, CI=0.33, 0.79) was protective.ConclusionIn addition to overdose and HIV prevention efforts, attention to structural conditions that potentiate mortality is needed, including improved access to medication-assisted treatment to support injection cessation and a shift from police as a source of harm to harm reduction.

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