Doing a shotgun: A drug use practice and its relationship to sexual behaviors and infection risk

David C. Perlman, Anthony R. Henman, Lee Kochems, Denise Paone, Nadim Salomon, Don C. Des Jarlais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been a rise in the frequency with which inhalational routes such as smoking are used for illicit drug use. A growing population of new inhalational drug users augments the pool of individuals at risk for transition to injection drug use. Further, illicit drug smoking has been implicated in the transmission of a variety of pathogens by the respiratory route, and crack smoking has been associated with an increased risk of HIV infection, particularly through the exchange of high-risk sex for drugs. Shotguns are an illicit drug smoking practice in which smoked drugs are exhaled or blown by one user into the mouth of another user. We conducted a series of ethnographic observations to attempt to characterize more fully the practice of shotgunning, the range of associated behaviors, and the settings and contexts in which this practice occurs. Shotguns may be seen as a form of drug use which, has close ties to sexual behaviors, and which has both pragmatic and interpersonal motivations, combining in a single phenomenon the potential direct and indirect risk of disease transmission by sexual, blood borne and respiratory routes. These data support the need to develop and evaluate comprehensive risk reduction interventions, which take into consideration the relationships between interpersonal and sexual behaviors and specific forms of drug use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1441-1448
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 1999


  • 'Shotgun'
  • Crack cocaine
  • HIV-infection
  • Substance abuse
  • Tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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