Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are the most common medical complication of injection drug use in the United States, though little work has been done assessing SSTI treatment among people who inject drugs (PWID). We examined past-3-month abscess characteristics, treatment utilization, and barriers to medical treatment among N=494 community-recruited PWID. We used descriptive statistics to determine the frequencies of self-treatment and medical treatment for their most recent past-3-month abscess as well as barriers to seeking medical treatment. We then used bivariate and multivariate logistic regression to identify factors associated with having an abscess in the past 3months. Overall, 67% of participating PWID ever had an abscess and 23% had one in the past 3months. Only 29% got medical treatment for their most recent abscess whereas 79% self-treated. Methods for self-treatment included pressing the pus out (81%), applying a hot compress (79%), and applying hydrogen peroxide (67%). Most (91%) self-treated abscesses healed without further intervention. Barriers to medical treatment included long wait times (56%), being afraid to go (49%), and not wanting to be identified as a PWID (46%). Factors associated independently with having an abscess in the past 3months were injecting purposely into muscle tissue (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=2.64), having difficulty finding a vein (AOR=2.08), and sharing injection preparation equipment (AOR=1.74). Our findings emphasize the importance of expanding community-based access to SSTI education and treatment services, particularly at syringe service programs where PWID may be more comfortable seeking resources.

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