Justice costs of stimulant use in Downtown Eastside not reduced by current treatment options

published on September 28, 2017 by Randy Shore in Vancouver Sun

A study of nearly 1,600 drug users on the Downtown Eastside found that people who use multiple stimulants daily cost the justice system thousands of dollars a month, and that currently available drug treatment programs do not reduce the costs of crime.

Researchers sorted drug users into eight categories based on whether or not they used stimulants daily — typically methamphetamine, cocaine and crack cocaine — and by which stimulants they used, alone or in combination. Participants self-reported their drug use and contact with the justice system every six months, in 5,299 interviews.

The estimated crime costs associated with the daily use of multiple stimulants by the neighbourhood’s residents are about $8,900 per user per month, the four-year study found. Those costs include police time, court appearances, incarceration and parole, and victims’ costs.

“These are really big numbers,” said study co-author Ben Enns, a health economist at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. “We are trying to make an economic case for more research because there aren’t any pharmacological treatments available for stimulant users.”

By contrast, opioid users have multiple drug-replacement therapies available to them.

More than 19,000 opioid users are enrolled in drug-replacement programs that prescribe either methadone and suboxone in B.C. 

About 110 addicts in Vancouver get prescription heroin and 25 receive hydromorphone at the Crosstown Clinic through a research program called the North American Opiate Medication Initiative, or NAOMI.

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