High rates of injection drug use in urban Aboriginal youth signal need for prevention programs

June 13, 2011

A new study indicates high rates of injection drug use in urban Canadian Aboriginal youth, particularly in women, and points to the need for culturally specific prevention programs, states an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Aboriginal leadership is alarmed at the levels of in their young people, especially injection , which is associated with HIV and . Injection drug use accounts for 70%󈞼% of all and almost 60% of HIV infections in Aboriginal youth under age 24 in Canada. The history of colonization, including the effect of residential schooling on several generations and the child welfare system, has had significant negative effects on Aboriginal communities. Many children and youth have experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuses as well as exposure to familial violence and drug dependence.

The Cedar Project is a prospective study of 605 Aboriginal youth in Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia, conducted from 2003 to 2007 that sought to understand use of illicit drugs, particularly relating to infection with . Participants were between the ages of 14 and 30 years and had smoked or injected illicit drugs, other than marijuana, in the month before enrolment. The median age was 23, and 292 (48.3%) were women.

At the start of the study, 335 (55.4%) of participants reported a history of injection drug use. Injection drug users were more likely to be women, to be older, to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or two-spirited, to have experienced sexual abuse, to have a parent who attended a residential school and to have other risk factors. In participants who had no history of injection drug use and who attended at least one follow-up visit (197 out of 270), 39 people (18 men, 21 women) began to inject drugs.

Young Aboriginal women were twice as likely to inject drugs as men.

"In our study population, about 11 participants per 100 person-years will transition to injection drug use — a rate that is almost twice as high as that found in the only other available longitudinal study done in Canada investigating transition to injection drug use among young people (6.8 per 100 person-years in Montréal, Quebec)," states Dr. Patricia Spittal, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, with coauthors. "Transition to injection drug use at a young age not only increases the risk of contracting an infectious disease, it also further entrenches the young person in an increasingly dangerous street life that often involves sex work, violence, predation and life-long addiction."

The study was conducted by researchers from the School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia; Simon Fraser University; the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences at Providence Health Care; the Wuikinuxv Nation, Port Hardy, BC; and the Splats'in/Secwepemc Nation, Enderby, BC.

"This study documents an unacceptable number of young, at-risk Aboriginal people transitioning to injection drug use every year; however, there are no tailored specifically to this population," states Chief Wayne Christian and coauthors. "Support for community-based programs that address the potential for drug dependence within the context of sexual trauma should be prioritized to respond to the dual epidemics of injection drug use and blood-borne infection among Aboriginal people," they conclude.

Explore further: Aboriginal youth use tobacco, illicit drugs and alcohol more than non-aboriginal youth

Related Stories

Aboriginal youth use tobacco, illicit drugs and alcohol more than non-aboriginal youth

May 9, 2011
Aboriginal-youth living off-reserve in Canada use tobacco, alcohol and drugs significantly more than non-Aboriginal youth and have higher health risks, according to an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.