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injection drug use, fall risk model, lower extremity function



  1. Pieper, Barbara
  2. Templin, Thomas N.
  3. Goldberg, Allon


Background: Fall risk is a critical component of clinical assessment and has not been examined for persons who have injected illicit drugs and are aging.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to test and develop the Fall Risk Model for Injection Drug Users by examining the relationships among injection drug use, chronic venous insufficiency, lower extremity impairments (i.e., decreased ankle range of motion, reduced calf muscle endurance, and leg pain), age and other covariates, and the Tinetti balance and gait total score as a measure of fall risk.


Methods: A cross-sectional comparative design was used with four crossed factors. Standardized instruments were used to assess the variables. Moderated multiple regression with linear and quadratic trends in age was used to examine the nature of the relationship between the Tinetti balance and gait total and age and the potential moderating role of injection drug use. A prespecified series of models was tested.


Results: Participants (n = 713) were men (46.9%) and women with a mean age of 46.26 years and primarily African American (61.7%) in methadone treatment centers. The fall risk of a 48-year-old leg injector was comparable with the fall risk of a 69-year-old who had not injected drugs. Variables were added to the model sequentially, resulting in some lost significance of some when they were explained by subsequent variables. Final significant variables in the model were employment status, number of comorbidities, ankle range of motion, leg pain, and calf muscle endurance.


Discussion: Fall risk was associated with route of drug use. Lower extremity impairments accounted for the effects of injection drug use and chronic venous insufficiency on risk for falls. Further understanding of fall risk in injection users is necessary as they age, attempt to work, and participate in activities.