1Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.
Individuals using illicit drugs are at risk for heavy drinking and infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and/or hepatitis C virus (HCV). Despite medical consequences of drinking with HIV and/or HCV, whether drug users with these infections are less likely to drink is unclear. Using samples of drug users in treatment with lifetime injection use (n = 1309) and non-injection use (n = 1996) participating in a large, serial, cross-sectional study, we investigated the associations between HIV and HCV with abstinence from alcohol. About half of injection drug users (52.8 %) and 26.6 % of non-injection drug users abstained from alcohol. Among non-injection drug users, those with HIV were less likely to abstain [odds ratio (OR) 0.55; adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 0.58] while those with HCV were more likely to abstain (OR 1.46; AOR 1.34). In contrast, among injection drug users, neither HIV nor HCV was associated with drinking. However, exploratory analyses suggested that younger injection drug users with HIV or HCV were more likely to drink, whereas older injection drug users with HIV or HCV were more likely to abstain. In summary, individuals using drugs, especially non-injection users and those with HIV, are likely to drink. Age may modify the risk of drinking among injection drug users with HIV and HCV, a finding requiring replication. Alcohol intervention for HIV and HCV infected drug users is needed to prevent further harm.