Drug use trends in Victoria and Vancouver, and changes in injection drug use after the closure of Victoria’s fixed site needle exchange




Ivsins, Andrew
Chow, Clifton
Marsh, David
Macdonald, Scott
Stockwell, Tim
Vallance, Kate

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Centre for Addictions Research of BC


Overview This 6th CARBC statistical bulletin reports trends in injection drug use in Victoria and Vancouver from the BC Alcohol and Other Drug Monitoring Project (www.AODmonitoring.ca). As well, changes before and after the closure of Victoria’s fixed site needle exchange in June 2008 are examined. Results are reported from 464 interviews (226 in Vancouver, 238 in Victoria) with adult injection drug users conducted in 5 waves using a standardised sampling strategy, every 6 months from July 2007 to December 2009. Around the time of the closure of the fixed site needle exchange in Victoria, there were shifts in the types of drugs injected and an increase in unsafe injecting practices. At the same time, numbers of clean needles distributed in Victoria since the closure fell by over 15,000 per month. Across both cities and all time periods, crack cocaine was the most commonly used substance, after tobacco, in the past 30 days (86%), followed by powdered cocaine (70%). When the needle exchange ceased operation on May 31, 2008, the data shows a brief decrease in daily injection among the sample, followed by a steady rise to higher levels than pre-closure over the next year. Trends show a decline in Vancouver during the same period. By the second half of 2009, there was a substantially higher proportion of frequent drug injectors in Victoria than Vancouver (89% vs. 29%). Needle sharing was significantly more common in Victoria than Vancouver (see Figure 1). Rates increased to 23% in Victoria, up from 10% before the fixed site needle exchange closure, compared with 8% in Vancouver - a concern highlighted by qualitative data suggesting this increase was directly linked to the closure. It is recommended that measures be taken to increase ease of access to both clean needles and crack- using paraphernalia to limit the spread of blood-borne viruses in the community.


CARBC Statistical Bulletin


drug use trends in Victoria and Vancouver, injection drug, Victoria's fixed site needle exchange