Puerto Rican migrants to NYC engage in riskier drug use

May 05, 2003

Puerto Rican injection drug users who move to New York City are more likely to engage in risky drug behaviors than other users in the city, according to new research.

Puerto Rican migrants injected drugs more often than other New York City users and were more apt to visit "shooting galleries," multiple user areas associated with higher levels of needle and equipment sharing. Thirty-two percent of drug-using migrants visited shooting galleries, compared with 18 percent of other New Yorker who inject drugs. Nearly half of all injection drug users who were homeless migrants said that they used shooting galleries.

Users who remained in Puerto Rico, however, show the same level of risky behavior as their migrant counterparts who return to the island, according to Sherry Deren, Ph.D., of the National Development and Research Institutes Inc. and colleagues.

This suggests that the migrants learned the risky behaviors in Puerto Rico and continued them after moving to New York, the researchers say.

"Our finding that new arrivals to New York may be practicing riskier behaviors than other New York injection drug users should be incorporated into prevention and intervention messages to help these new arrivals in accessing risk-reduction tools such as new needles from needle exchange programs and pharmacies," Deren says.

The researchers asked 873 injection drug users in New York City and Puerto Rico how often they injected drugs, visited shooting galleries, shared syringes and shared other injection equipment like cookers and rinse water. They found that Puerto Rican migrants did not share syringes more often than other New York users, but they were more apt to share other injection equipment like cookers and rinse water.

Despite practicing more risky injection behaviors, Puerto Rican migrants had lower levels of risky behavior than users in Puerto Rico. Services such as needle exchanges and addiction treatment are more readily available in New York City, which may account for some of the differences in risk behavior between Puerto Rican migrants and users who never left Puerto Rico, according to Deren and colleagues.
The study was published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health and supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

By Becky Ham, Staff Writer Health Behavior News Service

Health Behavior News Service: (202) 387-2829 or www.hbns.org.
Interviews: Contact Sherry Deren at (212) 845-4463 or deren@ndri.org.
American Journal of Public Health: (202) 777-2511 or www.ajph.org.

Center for Advancing Health

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