Public Release: 

Tight rules, police presence may limit use of Vancouver's new drug injection facility

Canadian Medical Association Journal

In a study released early online today by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers conclude that Health Canada guidelines and possible police surveillance may end up scaring away the very people North America's first sanctioned safer injecting facility is intended to help. The site, part of a pilot study that will allow drug users to inject illicit drugs they bring with them under the supervision of medical staff, is slated to open in Vancouver Sept. 15. It will be operated by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. The study was conducted to estimate user interest and to evaluate the potential impact of newly established guidelines and police activities.

Dr. Thomas Kerr and colleagues interviewed 458 active injection drug users in Vancouver, and 422 (92%) reported they were willing to use a safer injecting facility. When Health Canada guidelines were considered, only 141 (31%) said they were willing to use the facility. That number dropped to 103 (22%) when police surveillance entered the mix. The Health Canada restrictions, which are in place because of liability concerns, include prohibitions on sharing drugs and helping other drug users inject.

The researchers conclude that users' concerns about the Health Canada guidelines will have to be addressed. As well, "potentially harmful law enforcement practices in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside" will likely require "substantial modification" if the new facility is to be successful.

In a related commentary, Dr. Craig Fry of the University of Melbourne in Australia says Canada's experience with this pilot study will be of "significant interest" to international audiences.

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Potential uptake of safer injecting facilities among injection drug users in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside -- Kerr T, Wood E, Small D, Palepu A, Tyndall WA

Safer injecting facilities in Vancouver: considering issues beyond potential uptake -- C. Fry

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