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Ready Access to Illicit Drugs among Youth and Adult Users

Authors

  • Scott E. Hadland MD, MPH,

    1. Department of Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
    2. Department of Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Brandon D. L. Marshall PhD,

    1. British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    2. Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Thomas Kerr PhD,

    1. British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    2. School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Calvin Lai MSc,

    1. British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Julio S. Montaner MD,

    1. British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    2. Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Evan Wood MD, PhD

    1. British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    2. Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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Dr. Wood, MD, PhD, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul's Hospital, 608-1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6Z 1Y6. E-mail: uhri-ew@cfenet.ubc.ca.

Abstract

Background: Current drug-control strategies in Canada focus funding and resources predominantly on drug law enforcement, often at the expense of preventive, treatment, and harm reduction efforts. This study aimed to examine the availability of the most commonly used substances in Vancouver, Canada after the implementation of such strategies. Methods: Using data from two large cohorts of drug-using youth and adults in Vancouver from the calendar year 2007, we assessed perceived availability of heroin, crack, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and marijuana. Results: Compared to youth (n= 330), a greater proportion of adults (n= 1,160) reported immediate access (ie, within 10 minutes) to heroin (81.0% vs. 55.9%, p < .001), crack (90.4% vs. 69.3%, p < .001), and cocaine (83.7% vs. 61.1%, p < .001). Conversely, larger proportions of youth reported immediate access to crystal methamphetamine (62.8% vs. 39.4%, p < .001) and marijuana (88.4% vs. 73.2%, p < .001) compared to adult users. Conclusions: Regardless of differences in illicit drug availability by age, all drugs are readily accessed in Vancouver despite drug law enforcement efforts. This includes drugs that are frequently injected and place users at risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and transmission of other blood-borne disease. (Am J Addict 2012;00: 1–3)

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