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ID: 687

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Research

Topics: Children, Young People and Drug Use

Presenting author: Jade Boyd

Presenting author biography:

Jade Boyd is an associate researcher with the Urban Health Research Initiative at the University of British Columbia's BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Social factors impacting the cessation of injection drug use among marginalized youth in Vancouver, Canada: A qualitative study

Jade Boyd

Background: Injection drug use is associated with HIV and hepatitis C transmission, overdose and other avoidable health-related harms. The cessation of injection drug use among people who inject criminalized drugs is therefore an important public health goal. Epidemiological examinations of injection cessation have largely focused on adult drug user populations. Less work has examined qualitatively the transition to injection cessation among young adults and youth.

Methods: Twenty-two semi-structured, qualitative interviews were conducted with street involved young people who use drugs, focused on their pathways and barriers to injection cessation. Adopting an ethno-epidemiological approach, interview participants who had experienced injection cessation in the past six months were selectively recruited from the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS) cohort, an ongoing prospective cohort study of street involved and drug using young people in Vancouver, BC.

Results: Findings indicate that injection cessation was influenced by a multitude of supports including access to harm-reduction informed youth-focused treatment services. Participants indicated that inadequate social supports and conventional drug treatment methods impeded efforts to cease injecting. However, exclusionary practices are both navigated and mediated by young people who inject drugs in order to access basic necessities such as food, hygiene supplies and a place to sleep.

Conclusion: Findings underscore the critical role of socioeconomic factors (beyond individual behaviours) in shaping drug use patterns, highlighting the need for intervention strategies and policies that facilitate youth’s access to things like shelter, housing, work, clothing, showers and food as a central component of the process of transitioning away from injection drug use.