This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:
Park H, Linthwaite B, Dussault C, Halavrezos A, Chalifoux S, Sherman J, Del Balso L, Buxton JA, Cox J, Kronfli N. Factors associated with changes in illicit opioid use during the COVID-19 pandemic among incarcerated people who use drugs in Quebec, Canada. Int J Prison Health. 2022 Dec 19. doi: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPH-06-2022-0038.
The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.
A CITF-funded study published in the International Journal of Prisoner Health, showed that approximately 59% of incarcerated people who use drugs reported decreased use of opioids since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Those who reported living with others or having a history of overdose were more likely to decrease illicit opioid consumption during the pandemic. This study was led by Dr. Nadine Kronfli (McGill University).
- The majority (72/123; 59%) of participants reported a decrease in illicit opioid consumption since March 2020. This may have been due to reduced opioid availability, concerns regarding the risk of (repeat) overdose and knowledge of an increasingly toxic drug supply during the pandemic
- Factors that were significantly associated with decreased consumption of illicit opioids were:
- younger age, between 18 and 39;
- living in a household of 2 or more people; and
- a history of opioid overdose since March 2020.
- Individuals living with others were 30% (when compared to living alone) more likely to report a decrease in illicit opioid consumption since the start of the pandemic. Individuals with a history of opioid overdose since March 2020 were 9% (vs those who do not have a history of opioid overdose) more likely to report a decrease in illicit opioid consumption since the start of the pandemic.
Researchers concluded the need for increased access to opioid agonist therapy (OAT) and other harm reduction services in prison and discharge planning to prevent overdose and death in this vulnerable population.
An observational cross-sectional study was conducted with incarcerated men 18 years and older from three Quebec provincial prisons, where individuals serve sentences of less than two years. In total, 123 participants (median age 37, 76% white) were included from January 19 to September 15, 2021. Overall, the median age of participants was 37 years. Three-quarters (76%) self-identified as White. Half (50%) reported a personal gross yearly income of less than $30,000 CAD and 60% reported living with at least one other person prior to incarceration. Approximately one-quarter (23%) reported a history of opioid overdose since March 2020. Over one-third (35%) spent more than 50% of their time in a Quebec provincial prison since March 2020, while 26% were incarcerated for less than four weeks.
Participants completed self-administered questionnaires that were collected by the research team to maintain confidentiality, which may have mitigated biases.