Drug use on the street is changing, VIHA says

  • Jan. 18, 2011 12:00 p.m.

Study prompts call for free distribution of clean equipment

Crack cocaine has replaced marijuana and alcohol as the top non-injectable drug of choice for the city’s intravenous drug users, a report suggests.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Vancouver Island Health Authority released findings from the Victoria 2009 I-Track surveillance program of intravenous drug users last month.

The follow-up to 2003 and 2005 reports shows a substantial shift in drug use in Greater Victoria – one that illustrates how users are opting to smoke crack instead of inject powdered cocaine.

The findings indicate that while the need for clean needles still exists, the heightened use of crack pipes shows that mouth pieces and other hygienic paraphernalia are crucial to help reduce the risk of communicable diseases such as hepatitis C, said Dr. Murray Fyfe, a VIHA medical health officer.

“People have these fears that if you’re providing things … you’re giving big illicit drug kits out but, in fact, these are just common supplies that you can find in a hardware store or in a corner store,” Fyfe said.

“Those people shouldn’t really be concerned about this. It’s just a way of keeping (drug users) safe.”

Since 2005, intravenous drug users are also less likely to be stably housed and subsequently more prone to disorder.

“One of the things of interest from this study is where people are injecting,” Fyfe said.

“We hear a lot about the Pandora Street corridor, but if you look in the map included in the report, there are people injecting all around the Greater Victoria area and Vancouver Island.”

While the percentage of intravenous users who reported sharing needles has shrunk from 42 per cent in 2005 to 23 per cent in 2009, the trend doesn’t diminish the importance of needle exchanges. Rather, it underlines the need for an integrated approach to services.

“This really emphasizes that work needs to continue,” Fyfe added.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

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