UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Back to the core : A network approach to bolster harm reduction among persons who inject drugs Bouchard, Martin; Hashimi, Sadaf; Tsai, Kristen; Lampkin, Hugh; Jozaghi, Ehsan


Background. Injecting drugs safely almost always includes the presence of one’s social network, especially for the prevention of overdose. Yet, the systematic analysis of users’ social networks has yet to be established as a focal method in harm reduction research, and interventions. Methods. This study draws from 200 interviews with persons who inject drugs recruited from North America’s first sanctioned supervised injection facility and a drug user’s advocacy group. Respondents were asked about the individuals they personally considered as facilitators of harm reduction, and the relations between them. Collectively, these 200 respondents provided over 900 individuals whom they considered as members of their harm reduction network. The aim was to locate individuals that would potentially make the network denser (harm reduction champions) and users that were situated in the “periphery” of the network, and in practice, further away from the harm reduction core. Results. Results found that 63 individuals formed the “core” of the harm reduction network, collectively reaching approximately 70% of individuals in the network. We also uncovered 31 individuals that acted as “articulation points”– these individuals were not as connected, but were more effective at reaching peripheral individuals. Conclusion. The PWIDs we sampled were surrounded by a relatively rich harm reduction network, but the network approach showed that only a minority of individuals were true harm reduction “champions”. Recruitment of a combination of well-connected harm reduction champions, and strategically connected articulation points, would be most effective in planning network interventions that encourage harm reduction behaviors among this population.

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