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Report: Drug Situation in Vancouver

UHRI report emphasizes need for evidence-based approach to drug policy

UHRI’s 2009 report, Drug Situation in Vancouver, contains more than 10 years of prospective data on drug use trends, drug availability, HIV rates and mortality rates among people in the Vancouver area who use hard drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine.

Key findings from the report include:
  • Steep increases in the use of crack cocaine over the last decade
  • Significant increases in crystal methamphetamine use, especially among street-involved youth
  • Remarkably easy access to drugs such as cocaine and crystal meth
  • Reduced drug injection rates but high mortality among injection drug users due to long-term HIV infection
  • Dramatic reductions in the sharing of syringes and related HIV and hepatitis C infections among injection drug users
Adult drug users in Vancouver reported that it was very easy to get cocaine, with about 90% of respondents stating that they could get cocaine or crack within 10 minutes. Crystal meth was also reported to be readily available to street-involved youth, with almost 60% of youth saying they could get the drug within 10 minutes. The reported availability of these so-called hard drugs is similar to the reported availability of marijuana among these groups.

Although the report shows significant positive effects of the city’s harm reduction programs, including dramatic reductions in infectious disease transmission and drug overdose rates, mortality rates are still high, mostly because of HIV infections acquired a decade ago. The death rate is 10 times higher for male injection drug users than it is for the general male population in British Columbia, and for females, the rate is 22 times higher for injectors than for the general female population.

The report            In the media