Research > Injection drug users
Research Project: Social Relationships and Injection Drug Users in Communities across Atlantic Canada (ICAC)
Lois Jackson, Dalhousie University (Principal Investigator)
Margaret Dykeman, University of New Brunswick
Jacqueline Gahagan, Dalhousie University
Jeff Karabanow, Dalhousie University
- Mainline Needle Exchange, Halifax, NS
- AIDS Coalition of Cape Breton, Sydney, NS
- AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s, NL
- AIDS PEI, Charlottetown, PEI
- SIDA/AIDS Moncton, Moncton, NB
- AIDS Saint John, Saint John, NB
- AIDS New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB
- Direction 180, Halifax, NS
The study is guided by an Atlantic Advisory Committee, representing service organizations, government, academics, and people with first-hand knowledge of injection drug use. The Advisory Committee provides guidance and input on all aspects of the study.
SUMMARY OF RESEARCH PROJECT
This research explores the social relationships of people who use injection drugs (IDUs) in rural and urban Atlantic Canada. We are interested in understanding how relationships influence the safer or unsafe drug use and sexual practices of people who use injection drugs. Social relationships are defined broadly to include relationships with other drug users, romantic partners, friends, family, service providers, police etc. This research is important as it allows us to understand the influence of relationships on practices rather than solely focusing on the individual. By understanding the influence of relationships we can think about prevention initiatives in new ways, and propose strategies that seek to change or alter relationships that shape unsafe practices, or alternatively support relationships that encourage safer behaviors.
Currently, there is some literature on the relationships of people who use injection drugs but this research focuses almost exclusively on urban dwelling IDUs. This ‘urban-centred’ approach appears to be due, in part, to the fact that until recently drug use was primarily viewed as an urban health issue. Only in the past few years has drug use in rural areas been recognized as an issue, and attention drawn to its existence.
Our research is comparing relationships among urban and rural dwelling IDUs, and exploring IDUs’ relationships in all four Atlantic Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland [excluding Labrador]). This research is, therefore, providing a comparison of more than one rural or urban setting, and is gaining knowledge critical to the development of prevention initiatives within the region.
This research involves two key methods of data collection:
1) Interviews with people who use injection drugs (115 interviews have been completed). We have been working closely with our community partners to recruit a diverse group of users including urban and rural, men and women, long term and shorter term users.
The interview guide contains questions about when, where and how the participant typically accesses and uses drugs, who they are with, and their relationships with these people. We are particularly interested in understanding why and with whom people take risks such as sharing needles and other paraphernalia. We also asked participants about sexual partners and their behaviors in terms of safer or unsafe sex, as well as broader questions about their daily lives and how they see themselves in their community.
2) A “micro-ethnography”, which involves examining selected urban and rural communities in NS and NL, in an effort to provide a detailed context for the findings of the interviews with IDUs. This component will help us to understand policy and community factors that support safer or unsafe behaviors and shape the social relationships of people who use injection drugs in both urban and rural settings. We are interviewing key informants in selected communities including friends/family of people who use injection drugs, and service providers. These key informant interviews, combined with the findings of the interviews with people who use drugs provide a more thorough understanding of the local environment and factors that promote and prevent safer behaviors.
Funding for the study is from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).This study was developed under the auspices of the Atlantic Interdisciplinary Research Network for Social and Behavioral Issues in Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS (AIRN).
- The power of relationships: Implications for safer and unsafe practices among injection drug users. Drug: education, prevention and policy. In press.
· Social justice issues for injection drug users: Access to services and supports, and meaningful involvement in research. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse Conference, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2009. [Special Session involving 3 presentations on various aspects of the study]
· A community-based research methodology for studying harm reduction across diverse settings. International Harm Reduction Conference, Thailand, 2009.
· Social relationships and safer/unsafe practices of injection drug users in urban and rural Atlantic Canada. International Harm Reduction Conference, Thailand, 2009.
- Exploring the role of family in reducing drug-related harm. The 5th Latin Conference of Harm Reduction, Portugal, 2009.
· Beyond diseases: Multiple social and economic harms in the lives of injection drug users. The 5th Latin Conference of Harm Reduction, Portugal, 2009.
- The role of injection drug users in reducing drug-related harms for non-users. The 5th Latin Conference of Harm Reduction, Portugal, 2009.
- Family matters: exploring the role of family in reducing drug-related harm. The 5th Latin Conference of Harm Reduction, Portugal, 2009.
- Social relationships and harm reduction practice among injection drug users in Nova Scotia, Canadian Public Health Association Annual Conference, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2008.
· Social relationships and harm reduction practices among injection drug users in Nova Scotia: Some preliminary findings. Centre for Addictions Research at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2008.
· Social relationships and safer/unsafe sexual and injection drug use practices among IDUs in urban and rural Nova Scotia. Nursing Research Conference, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2007.
- Safer practices of injection drug users in Nova Scotia: Preliminary Findings, International Union for Health Promotion and Education, British Columbia, Canada, 2007.