FRIDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- Injection drug users have the greatest need for substance abuse treatment, regardless of what types of drugs they use, according to a new study.

Since injection drug users suffer higher rates of abuse, dependence and other physical and psychological problems, researchers argued their findings could help treatment programs specialize their care to target these high-risk individuals.

"Our findings indicate that injection drug use is associated with substantially more substance abuse-related problems than non-injection drug use, including a higher prevalence of dependence, unemployment, and co-occurring mental and physical disorders," said the study's lead author Scott Novak, senior behavioral health epidemiologist at RTI International in an RTI news release.

"These problems appear to characterize a treatment-resistant population in need of specialized treatments," he concluded.

The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Addictive Diseases.

To investigate injection drug use, the researchers compiled data from the National Survey on Drug use and Health, an annual U.S. survey of about 70,000 children and adults.

Among the study's findings, researchers revealed those living in rural areas were more likely to inject drugs than those residing in either urban or suburban areas. Injection drug users were also more likely than those using drugs in other ways to be aged 35 and older, unemployed, and to not have a high school diploma.

"This study confirms a longstanding belief that injection drug users are a unique population with their own treatment needs, regardless of what drug they inject," concluded Novak. "By learning more about how routes of administration are related to user characteristics, we could improve our ability to tailor substance abuse treatment and prevention strategies to individual users."

The study's authors also noted that injection drug users are more commonly arrested or jailed than other types of drug abusers. As a result, individualized treatment for injection drug users should extend to those who are incarcerated.

More information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides more information on substance abuse treatment.