Substance-use trends

Anecdotal feedback from survey participants has pointed us to a few trends that warrant additional research, including the conversion of crack pipes received from harm-reduction services into meth pipes, and the increase in people acquiring cannabis from dispensaries in the Victoria area. Tear-off survey questions have been added to capture information regarding pipe conversions, with 2015 being the first year data on this was collected.

An increase in the presence of fentanyl has also been reported in Victoria. Questions pertaining to awareness around fentanyl and whether people had knowingly consumed it in the past 30 days were added to the 2015 survey, as were questions about naloxone/Narcan, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses. Additional fentanyl questions were added in 2016.

We have also begun collecting data on the consumption of non-beverage alcohol, such as mouthwash or rubbing alcohol. New questions about this were added to the survey in 2015.

A look at data from 2008-2015 also reveals some interesting trends along age and gender lines. For example, males were 1.3 times more likely to report using LSD or magic mushrooms in the past 30 days than females, while crack cocaine was much more likely to be used by people aged 35+ than those aged 15-24. Ecstasy was the drug most likely to be used by younger age brackets, with respondents aged 15-24 being 6.5 times more likely to use it than people aged 35+, and those aged 25-34 being 3.6 times more likely.

There were also significant trends when looking across the three survey cohorts: street-involved youth who used substances, street-involved adults who used substances and adults using substances in social settings. Street-involved adults were more likely to report crack cocaine use (4.3 times compared to youth and 30.3 times compared to recreational) as well as heroin use (2.3 times compared to youth and 27.8 times compared to recreational). Street-involved youth and adults using in recreational settings were more likely to report using ecstasy, LSD and mushrooms over the past 30 days.

When we compare our 2015 data to surveys from previous years, some drugs seem to be more popular now than they were in 2008. Looking across all three survey cohorts, more respondents reported using LSD, mushrooms, heroin and crystal meth in the past 30 days in our 2015 survey compared to several other years. Crack, cocaine and ecstasy were less popular in 2015 than they had been in previous waves of the survey (although ecstasy use has increased over time among the recreational adults). See the individual survey sections for more details on significant substance-use trends over time.

Street-involved youth were much more likely to try substances at an earlier age than other populations surveyed; given the maximum age to participate in the youth survey was 24, this is not a surprise. Alcohol was the drug first tried across all three populations, with first use reported at an average of 12 or 13 years of age. At the top end of the scale, the substance street-involved adults were most likely to use later in life was crystal meth (29 years), while for street-involved youth it was heroin (17). Crystal meth and crack were the drug adults who used in social settings reported trying latest in life, with the average age of first use being 22.

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.

Ecstasy use among high risk populations in Victoria BC

Ecstasy use was lowest amongst street-involved adults who used drugs, with an average of 7.7% reporting use in the past 30 days (2008-2015). An average of 41% of street-involved youth who used substances reported using ecstasy in the past 30 days, although anecdotally that number has decreased since 2008 (test of data from 2012-on found this to be a statistically significant downward trend). Adults using drugs in social settings reported the highest rates of ecstasy use, with 63% saying they had used it in the past 30 days; use among this population has increased since 2008, and this trend is statistically significant.

Youth were an average of 15 years old when they first tried ecstasy, while recreational adults were 19 and street-involved adults were 26.

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.

Alcohol use among high risk populations in Victoria BC

Rates of alcohol use were highest amongst adults using substances in social settings; an average of 95% saying they had consumed it in the past 30 days (2008-2015), and usage has been increasing since 2008; tests found this to be a statistically significant trend. An average of 82% of street-involved youth who used drugs said they had used alcohol in the past 30 days, and there seems to be a downward trend in consumption among this group, although analysis of data from 2012-on does not reveal any statistical significance. Alcohol use amongst street-involved adults has fluctuated over the years, but remains the lowest of all three survey groups with an average of 65% saying they had consumed it in the past 30 days. A downward trend has been observed since 2010 and this was found to be statistically significant.

Alcohol was the drug most likely to first be tried by all three populations, with street-involved adults and youth both reporting they had first used it at 12 and recreational adults at 13.

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.

opiate use among street involved adults who use substances

While heroin was the most-used opiate drug in 2015, Morphine or MS contin was the prescription opioid most likely to be used in the past 30 days by street-involved adults who used substances, followed by dilaudid, methadone and oxycodone/percocet. The above chart looks at trends in opiate and opioid use since 2010, when our survey for street-involved adults who use substances was expanded to include non-injection drug users. Use of opiate/opioid drugs amongst street-involved adults who use substances has generally increased since 2010, but analysis shows us this trend is only statistically significant for heroin and dilaudid.

opiate use among street-involved adults on mmt

Many adults continued to use opiates or opioids while on methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), with heroin being the substance most likely to have been used over the past 30 days. Morphine/MS contin use during MMT was also widely reported, with 53% reporting use over the past 30 days. The fluctuations in trends over time were not found to be statistically significant, but anecdotal and qualitative information gathered during interviews suggests that BC’s change from methadone to methadose in early 2014 may be responsible for the increase in opiate/opioid use while on MMT in 2014/15. The increase in heroin and dilaudid use was found to be statistically significant, but due to a small sample size, it should be interpreted with caution.

opiate use among street-involved youth who use drugs

Rates of prescription opioid use amongst street-involved youth who are using drugs are significantly lower than those for adults, and analysis of these trends from 2012-onward were not found to be statistically significant. On average, heroin has been the opiate most commonly used in the past 30 days among this population.

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.