Cheque day’ linked to drug overdose risk in BC: Study

published on September 24, 2014 by Jesse Tahirali in CTV News

Injection drug users are much more likely to overdose around the day government assistance cheques are issued in British Columbia, according to new research published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

After studying drug use and overdose data collected at Insite, Vancouver Coastal Health’s safe injection site, researchers at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found that more than twice as many overdoses occurred on or immediately after “cheque day.” In BC, income assistance cheques are typically issued on the last Wednesday of each month.

Thomas Kerr, the senior author of the study, said the findings show a need to rethink the way assistance money is distributed.

“There is a clear pattern of elevated risk of drug overdose around cheque-issue day,” Kerr, the director of the centre’s Urban Health Research Institute, said in a statement.

“Given the impacts for individual health and related social consequences, many of which may be related to most people receiving their payments at the same time, there is a strong justification for exploring alternative approaches to how income assistance is delivered in BC”

The study found the overdose increase doesn’t come from a higher frequency of injections. Although the overdose rate increases by more than 100 per cent around cheque day, the average number of injections jumps only about six per cent to 513 per day, up from 483 on other days.

“What we take that to mean is that people who are injecting on or around cheque issuing day might be engaging in higher-risk drug use,” Lindsey Richardson, a researcher involved in the study, told in a phone interview.

Richardson said higher risk could come from increased dosage or using more than one type of drug at once. She said the risk increase could also be related a decreased tolerance for the drug due to the way users schedule their finances.

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