UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Inability to access addiction treatment predicts injection initiation among street-involved youth in a Canadian setting DeBeck, Kora; Kerr, Thomas; Nolan, Seonaid; Dong, Huiru; Montaner, Julio; Wood, Evan


Background: Preventing injection drug use among vulnerable youth is critical for reducing serious drug-related harms. Addiction treatment is one evidence-based intervention to decrease problematic substance use; however, youth frequently report being unable to access treatment services and the impact of this on drug use trajectories remains largely unexplored. This study examines the relationship between being unable to access addiction treatment and injection initiation among street-involved youth. Methods: Data were derived from the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS), a prospective cohort of street-involved youth aged 14–26 who use illicit drugs, from September 2005 to May 2014. An extended Cox model with time-dependent variables was used to identify factors independently associated with injection initiation. Results: Among 462 participants who were injection naïve at baseline, 97 (21 %) initiated injection drug use over study follow-up and 129 (28 %) reported trying but being unable to access addiction treatment in the previous 6 months at some point during the study period. The most frequently reported reason for being unable to access treatment was being put on a wait list. In a multivariable Cox regression analysis, being unable to access addiction treatment remained independently associated with a more rapid rate of injection initiation (Adjusted Hazard Ratio =2.02; 95 % Confidence Interval: 1.12–3.62), after adjusting for potential confounders. Conclusion: Inability to access addiction treatment was common among our sample and associated with injection initiation. Findings highlight the need for easily accessible, evidence-based addiction treatment for high-risk youth as a means to prevent injection initiation and subsequent serious drug-related harms.

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