Harms related to substance use

Harms experienced by high-risk populations in BC, 2008-2015

In all three high risk populations surveyed (street-involved youth who use substances, street-involved adults who used substances, and adults who used substances in social settings), the majority of respondents reported experiencing at least one type of harm related to their alcohol or drug use in the past 12 months (2010-2015).

Harms experienced by street-involved adults who use substances

For street-involved adults, physical assault, and harms to physical health or finances were the most common harms reportedly experienced due to alcohol use.

Finances, physical health and friendships/social life were the top three drug-related harms this population reported to have experienced in the past year. Of all three groups surveyed, street-involved adults were also the most likely to report housing-related harms, with 46% saying their drug use had an effect on their housing situation. Of the three high-risk populations, street-involved adults who used drugs had the lowest rates of alcohol use, which may be one reason why their rates of alcohol-related harms were lower.  A total of 46% said they had been assaulted by someone under the influence of illicit drugs in the past 12 months.

Types of harms experiences related by street-involved youth who use substances

Street-involved youth who used substances were the group reporting the highest rate of experiencing alcohol-related physical assault (55%). Financial and physical were the other top alcohol-related harms experienced by street-involved youth over the past 12 months. Home life or marriage was close behind (29%). In terms of drug-related harms, 57% of street-involved youth said they had experienced harms to their physical health, while 47% said their drug use had a harmful effect on their finances and 47% reported harms to their home life or marriage. Friendships or social life was a close fourth at 46%. A total of 44% had been hit or physically assaulted by someone using illicit drugs in the past year.

Harms experienced by adults using substances in social settings

Physical (49%) and financial (46%) were the most likely types of alcohol-related harms to be reported by adults using drugs in social settings, with harms to work, studies or employment opportunities coming in third at 32%. A total of 28% of social-setting adults said they had been physically assaulted by someone under the influence of alcohol. These three were also the most widely reported drug-related harms in this group (physical 58%, financial 41%, work/studies/employment 38%), although harms to friendships or social life were a close fourth at 33%; 14% said they had been physically assaulted by someone using illicit drugs.  

Note: Respondents had to be actively using substances at least once per month over the past six months to be eligible for the survey. These statistics are not necessarily representative of the average street-involved youth, street-involved adult, post-secondary or general populations. For more information on our high-risk surveys, please see the High Risk section of the AOD Monitoring Project.

Injection-drug use

Injection-drug use among street-involved adults who use substances

Injection-drug use has seen a significant increase (p<.001) from 2010-2015 among street-involved adults using substances, with 44% of street-involved adults surveyed in 2015 saying they had injected a substance in the past 30 days vs 27.5% in 2010. Crystal meth has also been increasing in popularity amongst people injecting drugs, having been in the top three most-injected substances since 2013, and surpassing heroin as the most injected substance for 2015.

Injection-drug use among street-involved youth who use substances

Street-involved youth who used substances injected drugs at a lower rate than adults. Analysis of data from 2012-onwards (when survey intake locations were changes) found no statistically significant trend in the data.

Equipment sharing

Injection-equipment sharing among street-involved adults who use drugs

Rates of injection were too small for street-involved youth using substances and adults using drugs in social settings to gather meaningful data on needle sharing, but incidents of needle sharing among street-involved adults show that only 14% reported sharing injecting equipment in the past 12 months, based on an average from 2008-2015. We have observed an anecdotal increase in needle sharing since 2012; however, an analysis of this data shows that it is not a statistically significant trend.

Crack pipe sharing among street-involved youth and adults who use substances

Rates of crack-pipe sharing were much higher than that of injection equipment sharing. An average of 63% of street-involved adults and 65% of street-involved youth who use crack said they’d shared a crack pipe in the past 12 months (2008-2015), although sharing rates have been on the decline for adults, and the statistical significance of this decreasing trend has been verified. Youth rates hit a low of 52% in 2012 and have risen since, although an analysis of this data has shown it is not a statistically significant trend.

Note: Respondents had to be actively using substances at least once per month over the past six months to be eligible for the survey. These statistics are not necessarily representative of the average street-involved youth, street-involved adult, post-secondary or general populations. For more information on our high-risk surveys, please see the High Risk section of the AOD Monitoring Project.

At least half of the people surveyed from all three Victoria populations had experienced overdose: 60% of street-involved adults using substances,  64% of street-involved youth using substances, and 50% of adults using drugs in social settings. 

street-involved adults who use substances' experiences of overdose

Heroin was the primary substance involved in overdose for street-involved adults in Victoria, with alcohol being a close second in terms of other primary substance reported. Marijuana was the number one secondary substance reported in overdoses in all three populations.

Street-involved youth who use substances' experiences of overdose

Adults using substances in social settings' experiences of overdose

Alcohol ranked first for street-involved youth who used drugs and adults using drugs in social settings, with ecstasy being the second-most-common primary substance reported for both populations. Marijuana was the mostly commonly reported secondary substance in both populations.

Note: Respondents had to be actively using substances at least once per month over the past six months to be eligible for the survey. These statistics are not necessarily representative of the average street-involved youth, street-involved adult, post-secondary or general populations. For more information on our high-risk surveys, please see the High Risk section of the AOD Monitoring Project.