Severity of heroin use in Israel: Comparisons between native Israelis and former Soviet Union immigrants

Richard Isralowitz, Alexander Reznik, Suzanne E. Spear, Mary Lynn Brecht, Richard A. Rawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Aims: This study examined drug use patterns and severity among native-Israeli and former Soviet Union (FSU) immigrants in Israel who reported heroin use. Design, setting and participants: a total of 272 native Israelis and 300 FSU heroin users were interviewed from 2002 to 2006 as part of a large drug use surveillance study in Israel. Individuals were sampled at an intake centre, a methadone clinic and a day-treatment facility in the Negev region of Israel. Participants were assessed using the Addiction Severity Index, fifth edition. Native Israeli and FSU users were compared within two groups: those interviewed at intake and those interviewed in treatment. Findings: Overall, ASI composite scores suggested generally comparable levels of addiction severity between the two ethnic groups. Native-born Israelis reported more years of heroin use; however, the FSU immigrants reported longer use of other opiates. The FSU reported significantly more heroin use by injection, and a significantly higher rate of hepatitis C and other chronic medical problems. Comparisons by gender within each group revealed higher drug severity scores for females (native-born Israeli and FSU combined). Females in the intake group had significantly higher severity scores in the areas of employment and psychiatric status when compared to individuals who had been in treatment for some time. Conclusions: Except for higher levels of alcohol use, the FSU did not have more severe drug problems than the native Israelis as measured by ASI severity scores. Injection use among FSU, however, is a critical public health problem, especially given the well-established link between injection drug use, hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-637
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2007


  • Ethnic differences
  • Gender differences
  • Heroin
  • Opiates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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