Researchers say supervised injection sites needed in London

published on February 16, 2017 by Adela Talbot in Medical Xpress

There is a need for supervised injection sites, and research has shown that to be the case in some of Canada’s largest cities, including Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

But there is also a need in London, according to a recent study that took a close look at injection drug use in the city.

“For the past few years, there have been a number of indications that London does have a disproportionate burden of injection drug use and related harms,” said Ayden Scheim, a PhD candidate in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Western.

Scheim, whose research examines the social epidemiology of HIV and substance use, partnered with Thomas Kerr, co-director of the Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, in a multi-site study to assess the need and support for . Scheim was the principal investigator in London and recently co-authored a paper for the Ontario Integrated Supervised Injection Services Feasibility Study showing there is an urgent need for such services in the Forest City.

“A few years ago, from another study (in London), hospital-related visits due to opioid use were 1.5 times the provincial average. Our local needle exchange estimates they have 6,000 clients. Per capita, that becomes almost two per cent of the adult population of London. There’s lots of indications that London has a high level of injection drug use,” Scheim said.

His study, which surveyed roughly 200 individuals who inject drugs, “found an unfortunately high level of drug-related harm” in the city, he noted. Three out of four reported injecting in public places in the past six months. One in five reported sharing equipment. One in four reported a history of overdose; many among them indicated they were alone at the time.

“Yet, when we asked people would they be willing to use a supervised injection service if one was available, 86 per cent of people said they would be willing,” Scheim said.

“And there is a large body of evidence that suggests supervised injection sites are associated with reduced risk of needle sharing, disease transmission, public injecting and reduced overdose risk.”

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