Injection Drug Users, Crack Smokers, and the Use of Human Services

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This article describes the use of human services by 245 injection drug users and 125 crack cocaine smokers living in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio. These so-called hard drug users were asked about their current involvement with six categories of human services — homeless shelters, food pantries or soup kitchens, medical services, government financial assistance, drug self-help groups, and miscellaneous services. The findings suggest that drug users are active consumers of human services; nearly 90 percent reported current involvement. The average number of services used was more than three per person. Results of multivariate analyses suggest that a host of variables influence the type and number of services used. The study found no gross patterns of discrimination. It is concluded that more information is needed about how hard drug users interact with the human services system and that expectations of what the human services system is capable of accomplishing need to be re-evaluated.