UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Housing and overdose: an opportunity for the scale-up of overdose prevention interventions? Bardwell, Geoff; Collins, Alexandra B.; McNeil, Ryan; Boyd, Jade


Background: North America is currently experiencing an overdose epidemic due to a significant increase of fentanyl-adulterated opioids and related analogs. Multiple jurisdictions have declared a public health emergency given the increasing number of overdose deaths. In the province of British Columbia (BC) in Canada, people who use drugs and who are unstably housed are disproportionately affected by a rising overdose crisis, with close to 90% of overdose deaths occurring indoors. Despite this alarming number, overdose prevention and response interventions have yet to be widely implemented in a range of housing settings. Overdose prevention interventions: There are few examples of overdose prevention interventions in housing environments. In BC, for example, there are peer-led naloxone training and distribution programs targeted at some housing environments. There are also “supervised” spaces such as overdose prevention sites (similar to supervised consumption sites (SCS)) located in some housing environments; however, their coverage remains limited and the impacts of these programs are unclear due to the lack of evaluation work undertaken to date. A small number of SCS exist globally in housing environments (e.g., Germany), but like overdose prevention sites in BC, little is known about the design or effectiveness, as they remain under-evaluated. Conclusions: Implementing SCS and other overdose prevention interventions across a range of housing sites provides multiple opportunities to address overdose risk and drug-related harms for marginalized people who use drugs. Given the current overdose crisis rising across North America, and the growing evidence of the relationship between housing and overdose, the continued implementation and evaluation of novel overdose prevention interventions in housing environments should be a public health priority. A failure to do so will simply perpetuate what has proven to be a devastating epidemic of preventable death.

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