Substance use in high-risk populations in BC

This dataset contains information collected from surveys initiated in two BC sites (Vancouver and Victoria) designed to monitor patterns and trends in three specific illicit-drug-using populations: adults using substances in social settings, street-involved youth using substances and street-involved adults using substances. These populations were selected because of elevated rates of illicit drug use within these populations and contexts, and the high levels of associated risks and harms. Data has been collected since 2008, with collection in Vancouver ceasing in 2012.

Most widely used drugs

A graph of past month substance use in high risk populations, Victoria, 2008-14

While alcohol, tobacco and cannabis all rank highly amongst all three high-risk populations in Victoria since data collection started in 2008, they're not necessarily always top three substances for each population — and other substances are almost as common. For street-involved youth, tobacco (95%), cannabis (89%) and alcohol (82%) were the three most-used drugs in the past 30 days, with ecstasy (41%) placing a distant fourth.

Street-involved adults reported tobacco (95%), cannabis (68%) and crack cocaine (68%)to be the drugs most widely used in the past 30 days, with alcohol (65%) ranking fourth.

At 95%, alcohol was the most commonly reported drug amongst adults using substances in social settings, with cannabis (84%) and tobacco (65%) coming in second and third, respectively. Ecstasy use (63%) was almost as common as tobacco.

A graph of past month substance use in high risk populations, Victoria, 2014

When we look at data just from 2015 surveys, a slightly different pattern emerges. Rates for tobacco (100%) and cannabis (89%) use remain about the same for street-involved youth, but reported alcohol use in the past 30 days is lower (76%) and crystal meth use (46%) replaces ecstasy in the fourth-place slot. Analysis of data from 2012 onwards found a significantly decreasing trend in ecstasy (p<.01) use.

Tobacco (95%) and cannabis (84%) are still the most widely reported substances used by street-involved adults in the past 30 days, but crystal meth and alcohol (63%) replace crack cocaine in the third-place spot. Analysis of this data from 2010 onwards shows that there has been a statistically significant decrease in crack cocaine (p<.001) and alcohol (p<.05) use amongst street-involved adults who use substances, while crystal meth use (p<.001) is significantly increasing.

For adults using substances in social settings, reported alcohol (98%) and cannabis (94%) use increase slightly, with tobacco (60%) decreasing. Analysis shows the increase in alcohol and cannabis use to be a statistically significant trend (p<.001). Reported ecstasy use in the past 30 days also increases (68%), and analysis also tells us this is significant (p<.01). Another notable increase is of prescription amphetamine use, which was at 38% in 2015; analysis shows us this is also a statistically significant trend (p<.001).

A graph of past month substance use in high risk populations, Vancouver, 2008-12

Reported use over the past 30 days for 2008-2012 in Vancouver shows patterns similar to Victoria. Street-involved youth report tobacco (92%), cannabis (82%) and alcohol (80%) as the three most widely used drugs, with ecstasy in fourth at 43%.

Reported tobacco use (92%) is lower among street-involved adults in Vancouver than Victoria for a similar period, but crack cocaine (84%) use is higher. Cannabis (63%) is the third-most-reportedly used drug, while alcohol (52%) sits in fourth.

Alcohol (91%), marijuana (81%) and tobacco (73%) were the top three drugs recreational adults reported using in the past 30 days, with ecstasy use at 63%.

Note: The data in this section is drawn from the high-risk populations component of the BC alcohol and other drug (AOD) monitoring project, which is intended to provide indicators of patterns of use and substance-related problems within “at risk” populations. The dataset contains information collected from surveys in two BC cities (Vancouver and Victoria) and is designed to monitor trends in three specific populations that commonly use illicit drugs (club/party attendees, street-involved youth and street-involved adults).