Background Vancouver, Canada recently opened a medically supervised injecting facility (SIF) where injection drug users (IDU) can inject pre-obtained illicit drugs. Critics suggest that the facility does not help IDU to reduce their drug use.
Methods We conducted retrospective and prospective database linkages with residential detoxification facilities and used generalized estimating equation (GEE) methods to examine the rate of detoxification service use among SIF participants in the year before versus the year after the SIF opened. In secondary analyses, we used Cox regression to examine if having been enrolled in detoxification was associated with enrolling in methadone or other forms of addiction treatment. We also evaluated the impact of detoxification use on the frequency of SIF use.
Results Among 1031 IDU, there was a statistically significant increase in the uptake of detoxification services the year after the SIF opened. [odds ratio: 1.32 (95% CI, 1.11–1.58); P = 0.002]. In turn, detoxification was associated independently with elevated rates of methadone initiation [relative hazard = 1.56 (95% CI, 1.04–2.34); P = 0.031] and elevated initiation of other addiction treatment [relative hazard = 3.73 (95% CI, 2.57–5.39); P < 0.001]. Use of the SIF declined when the rate of SIF use in the month before enrolment into detoxification was compared to the rate of SIF use in the month after discharge (24 visits versus 19 visits; P = 0.002).
Conclusions The SIF's opening was associated independently with a 30% increase in detoxification service use, and this behaviour was associated with increased rates of long-term addiction treatment initiation and reduced injecting at the SIF.