Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jan 2018
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 Postmedia Network
Author: Yolande Cole
Page: A9


A University of Calgary researcher says the city's supervised
consumption site is important not only for people who use opioids, but
for those who consume other substances such as meth, which was cited
as the most frequently used substance during a recent study of drug
users in Calgary.

The research was conducted as part of a harm reduction needs
assessment for Calgary that launched in June 2017 and wrapped up in
the fall. The study included 370 people in the city who use substances
other than alcohol or marijuana.

Katrina Milaney, assistant professor in community rehabilitation and
disability studies in the Cumming School of Medicine, said some of the
findings that stood out for her included the fact fentanyl isn't the
most frequently used drug in the city, but it is "definitely the drug
that most people are overdosing on."

"It's particularly troubling that most people who did overdose on
fentanyl didn't know they were taking fentanyl when they overdosed,"
she said. "And they also didn't know how strong the drug was when they
took it."

Meth was the drug that people reported using most frequently. Among
users surveyed, 80 per cent said they have shared a pipe with someone.

"I think a supervised consumption site is really helpful for people
who use other substances like meth, because if they have access to
clean supplies, we're going to reduce the chance that people are
sharing supplies, and obviously that will impact the spread of
diseases like hepatitis C," said Milaney.

Researchers also discovered that a lot of people who use substances,
whether it's opioids or other drugs, are using alone. Almost everyone
surveyed who injects drugs has injected in public, 40 per cent always
inject by themselves, and 51 per cent have seen someone use a used

"A lot of people are using in public places, and that's primarily
because they don't have a safe place to go," Milaney said.

"That was really strong evidence for us to be thinking about the
importance of a supervised consumption site in our city, because this
gives people a safe place to go, where they're medically supervised.
It reduces the risk of overdose, which obviously reduces the risk of

Some of the concerning findings included the age of participants when
they first started using substances, with almost a quarter saying they
started using at age 12 or younger.

"That was a bit troubling," said Milaney.

The study also found that 62 per cent use substances more than four
times per week and 33 per cent use seven or more times per day.

Milaney called the supervised consumption sites launching in Alberta a
"really, really important first step," but said further harm reduction
measures are needed, including another supervised consumption site in

"There's lots more that we need to do around harm reduction more
broadly to make sure that we're capturing the vast and diverse people
who are using substances," she said.

"Our sites will attract a lot of people, but they won't attract
everyone. So we're really just beginning this conversation, I think,
in Alberta."

The research was conducted with an advisory team that included
representatives from Calgary police, the fire department, the City of
Calgary, shelters and agencies that work with the homeless.
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