Pubdate: Fri, 15 Jul 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Andrea Woo
Page: S1


Drug users report highest-ever rate of stimulant's use in study's
history, which suggests need for change to harm-reduction resources

Crystal methamphetamine use has climbed across British Columbia and is
now on par with heroin use, according to a new provincewide survey of
drug users.

The finding suggests a need to reassess the availability of
harm-reduction resources and supplies across the province, according
to an epidemiologist behind the study.

The survey, prepared by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, was
distributed across 34 sites offering harm-reduction supplies and
completed by 812 drug users. It builds on annual surveys dating to
2012 and paints a picture of substance-use trends among harm-reduction
clients across B.C. Before these surveys, most knowledge of local drug
trends was based on data from two major cities: Vancouver and Victoria.

As with previous years, marijuana remains the most commonly used
substance, with 58 per cent of respondents saying they had used it
within the past seven days. But while alcohol, heroin and crack
typically follow close behind, this year's results have crystal meth
tied for second most commonly used with heroin, at 48 per cent. It's
the highest rate of use of the stimulant reported in the BCCDC's
surveys to date.

Jane Buxton, physician epidemiologist and harm-reduction lead at the
BCCDC, said the increase could be linked to a decrease in
crack-cocaine use - users potentially switching over because of meth's
availability and low-cost - but that a longitudinal study would be
needed to explore the theory further.

"We have to treat this in the context of the data, but it's not just
one place that it's happening," Dr. Buxton said. "It seems to be
[across B.C.]."

Earlier this year, The Globe and Mail reported that crystal meth use
is steadily on the rise, with self-reported use at Insite, the
supervised injection site, having increased seven-fold in 10 years.

(This does not include other methods of ingestion, such as smoking or
snorting, which are common for crystal meth.) A similar increase was
reported in Victoria; a 2015 survey of drug users in that city found
62.5 per cent had used crystal meth in the previous 30 days, compared
with 22.5 per cent in 2010.

The BCCDC's report noted that while crystal meth use continues to
increase, crystal meth pipes are not readily available. Across B.C.'s
five health authorities, most crystal meth smokers in all but the
Vancouver Coastal Health region used a modified glass stem, which is
also called a straight shooter and typically used to smoke crack. The
drugs require flame to be applied differently.

Dr. Buxton underscored a need to ensure resources and harm-reduction
supplies match regional drug-use patterns.

"We need to make sure that people have resources that are connected to
services that, if they are using, they can use it in a manner that
reduces the harms as much as possible," she said.

Crystal meth use was highest in the Fraser Health region, with 65 per
cent of respondents saying they had used it recently. It was lowest in
the Vancouver Coastal region, at 22 per cent.

Earlier in the week, the B.C. Coroners Service released the latest
numbers on illicit-drug overdose deaths. In the first half of 2016,
371 people died of such overdoses - a 74.2-per-cent increase compared
with the same period last year. In overdose deaths that occurred from
January through May, fentanyl was detected in about 60 per cent.

Public health officials in B.C. are worried the year-end total could
reach 800.

Across B.C., 19 per cent of survey participants reported intentionally
using fentanyl.

"But obviously, what we're seeing now is that it seems to be much more
frequent than that," Dr. Buxton said. "It really highlights that
people don't know what substances they are using."

The survey identified alcohol as the third-most-used substance, with
44 per cent of respondents having consumed alcohol in the past seven
days, followed by crack (28 per cent), methadone (25 per cent),
cocaine (24 per cent), benzodiazepines (15 per cent) and hydromorphone
(15 per cent).
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MAP posted-by: Matt