Physical Health, Illicit Drug Use, and Demographic Characteristics in Rural Stimulant Users

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2007



There is growing concern about illicit rural stimulant use, especially regarding methamphetamine use and its health consequences.


The present study describes associations between aspects of stimulant use and illness experience in rural areas, with additional focus on the role of demographic characteristics in these associations.


The research participants were 710 stimulant drug users who were recruited from rural areas of Arkansas, Kentucky, and Ohio using Heckathorn's respondent-driven sampling method. Health was measured by self-reports of perceived health and extent of current, recent, and lifelong health problems. Drug use was measured with self-reports of type and frequency of use.


Several associations were found between drug use and illness, controlling for demographics. Stimulant use pattern related significantly with the sum of health problems in the previous 6 months and the sum of lifetime illness diagnoses, after adjustment for demographic factors. Extent of illicit drug use in the past month and self-perceived drug and alcohol problems were associated with several measures of health.


In this sample of stimulant users, methamphetamine use was associated with fewer recent medical problems than crack cocaine, combined crack and powder cocaine use, and use of all 3 of these stimulants. These results, across the 3 sites, suggest that prevalent assumptions about the methamphetamine "plague" and its negative health consequences must be viewed cautiously and examined with additional research.



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