[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Objective: Although cannabis is an illegal drug, 'medical marijuana programs' (MMPs) have proliferated (e.g., in Canada and several US states), allowing for legal cannabis use for therapeutic purposes. While both health risks and potential therapeutic benefits for cannabis use have been documented, potential public health impacts of MMPs - also vis-à-vis other psychoactive substance use - remain under-explored. Methods: We briefly reviewed the emerging evidence on MMP participants' health status, and specifically other psychoactive substance use behaviors and outcomes. Results: While data are limited in amount and quality, MMP participants report improvements in overall health status, and specifically reductions in levels of risky alcohol, prescription drug and - to some extent - tobacco or other illicit drug use; at the same time, increases in cannabis use and risk/problem patterns may occur. Conclusion: MMP participation may positively impact - for example, by way of possible 'substitution effects' from cannabis use - other psychoactive substance use and risk patterns at a scale relevant for public health, also influenced by the increasing population coverage of MMPs. Yet, net overall MMP-related population health effects need to be more rigorously and comprehensively assessed, including potential increases in cannabis use related risks and harms.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background:
By the year 2000, Canada faced high levels of illicit drug use and related harms. Simultaneously, a fundamental tension had raisen between continuing a mainly repression-based versus shifting to a more health-oriented drug policy approach. Despite a wealth of new data and numerous individual studies that have emerged since then, no comprehensive review of key indicators and developments of illicit drug use/harm epidemiology, interventions and law/policy exist; this paper seeks to fill this gap.
We searched and reviewed journal publications, as well as key reports, government publications, surveys, etc. reporting on data and information since 2000. Relevant data were selected and extracted for review inclusion, and subsequently grouped and narratively summarized in major topical sub-theme categories.
Cannabis use has remained the principal form of illicit drug use; prescription opioid misuse has arisen as a new and extensive phenomenon. While new drug-related blood-borne-virus transmissions declined, overdose deaths increased in recent years. Acceptance and proliferation of - mainly local/community-based - health measures (e.g., needle exchange, crack paraphernalia or naloxone distribution) aiming at high-risk drug users has evolved, though reach and access limitations have persisted; Vancouver's 'supervised injection site' has attracted continued attention yet remains un-replicated elsewhere in Canada. While opioid maintenance treatment utilization increased, access to treatment for key (e.g., infectious disease, psychiatric) co-morbidities among drug users remained limited. Law enforcement continued to principally focus on cannabis and specifically cannabis users. 'Drug treatment courts' were introduced but have shown limited effectiveness; several attempts cannabis control law reform have failed, except for the recent establishment of 'medical cannabis' access provisions.
While recent federal governments introduced several law and policy measures reinforcing a repression approach to illicit drug use, lower-level jurisdictions (e.g., provincial/municipal levels) and non-governmental organizations increasingly promoted social- and health-oriented intervention frameworks and interventions, therefore creating an increasingly bifurcated - and inherently contradictory - drug policy landscape and reality in Canada.
The International journal on drug policy 09/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.08.007 · 2.54 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Canada has featured the second-highest levels of prescription opioid (PO) use globally behind the United States, and reported extensive PO-related harms (e.g., non-medical PO use [NMPOU], PO-related morbidity and mortality). A recent comprehensive review synthesized key data on PO use, PO-related harms, and interventions in Canada, yet a substantive extent of new studies and data have emerged.
To conduct and present a comprehensive review update on PO use, PO-related harms, and interventions in Canada since 2010.
Narrative review METHODS: We conducted literature searches, employing pertinent keywords, in key databases, focusing on PO-related studies/data in/for Canada since 2010, or pertinent studies/data from earlier periods not included in our previous review. In addition, we identified relevant data from "grey" literature (e.g., government, survey, other data or system reports). Relevant data were screened and extracted, and categorized into 4 main sections of indicators: 1) PO dispensing and use, 2) non-medical PO use, 3) PO-related morbidity/mortality, 4) PO-related interventions and impacts.
PO-dispensing in Canada overall continued to increase and/or remain at high levels in Canada from 2010 to 2013, with the exception of the province of Ontario where marked declines occurred starting in2012; quantitative and qualitative PO dispensing patterns continued to vary considerably between provinces. Several studies identified common "high PO dosing" prescribing practices in different settings. Various data suggested declining NMPOU levels throughout most general (e.g., adult, students), yet not in special risk (e.g., street drug users, First Nations) populations. While treatment demand in Ontario plateaued, rising PO-related driving risks as well as neo-natal morbidity were identified by different studies. PO-related mortality was measured to increase - in total numbers and proportionally - in various Canadian jurisdictions. Select reductions in general PO and/or high-dose PO dispensing were observed following key interventions (e.g., Oxycodone delisting, prescription monitoring program [PMP] introduction in Ontario/British Columbia). While physician education intervention studied indicated mixed outcomes, media reporting was found to be associated with PO prescribing patterns.
The present review did not utilize systematic review standards or meta-analytic techniques given the large heterogeneity of data and outcomes reviewed.
Recently emerging data help to better characterize PO-related use, harm and intervention indicators in Canada's general context of comparatively high-level PO dispensing and harms, yet major gaps in monitoring and information persist; this continues to be a problematic challenge, especially given the implementation of key PO-related interventions post-2010, the impact of which needs to be properly measured and understood.
Prescription opioids, use, dispensing, dosing, education, non-medical use, Canada, morbidity, mortality, monitoring, interventions, policy, review.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cannabis is the most prevalently used drug globally, with many jurisdictions considering varying reform options to current policies to deal with this substance and associated harm. Three policy options are available: prohibition, decriminalization, and legalization, with prohibition currently the dominant model globally. This contribution gives reasons why legalization with strict regulation should be considered superior to other options with respect to public health in high income countries in North America.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
Consumption levels of prescription opioids (POs) have increased substantially worldwide, particularly the United States. An emerging perspective implicates increasing consumption levels of POs as the primary system level driving factor behind the observed PO-related harms. As such, the present study aimed to assess the correlations between consumption levels of POs and PO-related harms, including non-medical prescription opioid use (NMPOU), PO-related morbidity and PO-related mortality.
Pearson’s product-moment correlations were computed using published data from the United States (2001 – 2010). Consumption levels of POs were extracted from the technical reports published by the International Narcotics Control Board, while data for NMPOU was utilized from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Additionally, data for PO-related morbidity (substance abuse treatment admissions per 10,000 people) and PO-related mortality (PO overdose deaths per 100,000 people) were obtained from published studies. Consumption levels of POs were significantly correlated with prevalence of NMPOU in the past month (r =0.741, 95% CI =0.208–0.935), past year (r =0.638, 95% CI =0.014–0.904) and lifetime (r =0.753, 95% CI =0.235-0.938), as well as average number of days per person per year of NMPOU among the general population (r =0.900, 95% CI =0.625-0.976) and NMPOU users (r =0.720, 95% CI =0.165–0.929). Similar results were also obtained for PO-related morbidity and PO-related mortality measures.
These findings suggest that reducing consumption levels of POs at the population level may be an effective strategy to limit PO-related harms.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Prescription opioid (POs, i.e. opioid analgesics requiring a prescription) related harms are extensive in North America; non-medical PO use (NMPOU), PO-related morbidity (e.g. hospital or treatment admissions) and mortality (e.g. overdose deaths) are high in the general population. Most recommendations towards reducing PO-related problems to date have focused on rather narrow and specific areas (e.g. improved PO monitoring, clinical PO use guidelines, detection of patients with PO abuse, tamper-resistant PO formulations). An integrated population health framework for POs – i.e. an evidence-based approach towards largest possible reductions of PO-related harms in the population, as is well established for other psychoactive drug (e.g. alcohol) fields – is currently missing. Recent PO-focused policy initiatives launched in Canada present long lists of recommendations – the feasibility and impact of which on PO-related harms is uncertain – yet also are notably silent on population health-based considerations or approaches. We outline select principal pillars – including general and targeted prevention, and treatment – for a population health framework for PO-related harms and offer suggestions for implementation, with Canada as the principal case study. Given the extensive burden and known population-level determinants of PO-related harms, the development of an evidence-based population health approach to reduce this burden is urgently advised.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: While prohibition has been the dominant regime of cannabis control in most countries for decades, an increasing number of countries have been implementing cannabis control reforms recently, including decriminalization or even legalization frameworks. Canada has held out from this trend, although it has among the highest cannabis use rates in the world. Cannabis use is universally criminalized, and the current (conservative) federal government has vowed not to implement any softening reforms to cannabis control. As a result of several higher court decisions, the then federal government was forced to implement a 'medical marijuana access regulations' program in 2001 to allow severely ill patients therapeutic use and access to therapeutic cannabis while shielding them from prosecution. The program's regulations and approval processes were complex and subject to extensive criticism; initial uptake was low and most medical marijuana users continued their use and supply outside the program's auspices. This year, the government introduced new 'marijuana for medical purposes regulations', which allow physicians to 'authorize' medical marijuana use for virtually any health condition for which this is considered beneficial; supply is facilitated by licensed commercial producers. It is expected that some 500,000 users, and dozens of commercial producers will soon be approved under the program, arguably constituting - as with medical marijuana schemes elsewhere, e.g. in California - de facto 'legalization'. We discuss the question whether the evolving scope and realities of 'medical cannabis' provisions in Canada offer a 'sneaky side door' or a 'better third way' to cannabis control reform, and what the potential wider implications are of these developments.
International Journal of Drug Policy 09/2014; 26(1). DOI:10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.09.007 · 2.40 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Introduction
Studies have shown important gender differences among drug (including crack) users related to: drug use patterns; health risks and consequences; criminal involvement; and service needs/use. Crack use is prevalent in Brazil; however, few comparative data by sex exist. We examined and compared by sex key drug use, health, socio-economic indicators and service use in a bi-city sample of young (18–24 years), regular and marginalized crack users in Brazil.
Study participants (total n = 159; n = 124 males and n = 35 females) were recruited by community-based methods from impoverished neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. Assessments occurred by an anonymous interviewer-administered questionnaire and serum collection for blood-borne virus testing between November 2010 and June 2011. Descriptive statistics and differences for key variables by sex were computed; in addition, a ‘chi-squared automatic interaction detector’ (‘CHAID’) analysis explored potential primary factors differentiating male and female participants.
Most participants were non-white, and had low education and multiple income sources. More women had unstable housing and income from sex work and/or panhandling/begging, whereas more men were employed. Both groups indicated multi-year histories of and frequent daily crack use, but virtually no drug injection histories. Men reported more co-use of other drugs. More women were: involved in sex-for-drug exchanges; Blood-Borne Virus (BBV) tested and HIV+. Both groups reported similar physical and mental health patterns; however women more commonly utilized social or health services. The CHAID analysis identified sex work; paid work; begging/panhandling; as well as physical and mental health status (all at p < 0.05) as primary differentiating factors by sex.
Crack users in our study showed notable differences by sex, including socio-economic indicators, drug co-use patterns, sex risks/work, BBV testing and status, and service utilization. Results emphasize the need for targeted special interventions and services for males and female crack users in Brazil.
International Journal for Equity in Health 08/2014; 13(1):70. DOI:10.1186/s12939-014-0070-x · 1.71 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Five years ago, we highlighted Canada's emerging problem of prescription opioid (PO)-related harms and emphasized the need for targeted surveillance, research and interventions. Overall levels of PO use in the Canadian population have grown by 70% since then, while at the same time levels of non-medical PO use (NMPOU) in general and in key risk populations have continued to be high; furthermore, PO-related harms - specifically morbidity (e.g., treatment admissions) and mortality (e.g., overdose deaths) - have risen substantively. Unfortunately, major knowledge gaps related to systematic monitoring of PO-related harms continue to exist; for example, no national morbidity or mortality statistics are available. Investigator-driven research has generated important insights into the epidemiology and impacts of PO-related harms: high correlations between population-level PO dispensing and/or PO dosing and harms; high rates of co-occurrence of NMPOU and co-morbidities; and distinct NMPOU-related risk dynamics among street drug users. Select policy measures have been implemented only recently at the federal and provincial levels; these interventions remain to be systematically evaluated, especially given preliminary indications of reductions in PO-related harms (e.g., NMPOU) unfolding prior to the interventions. For these purposes, improvements in surveillance tools and research resources devoted to the extensive public health problem of PO-related harms in Canada continue to be urgently needed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The non-medical use of prescription opioids (PO) has increased dramatically in North America. Special consideration for PO prescription is required for individuals in methadone maintenance treatment (MMT). Our objective is to describe the prevalence and correlates of PO use among British Columbia (BC) MMT clients from 1996 to 2007.
This study was based on a linked, population-level medication dispensation database. All individuals receiving 30 days of continuous MMT for opioid dependence were included in the study. Key measurements included the proportion of clients receiving >7 days of a PO other than methadone during MMT from 1996 to 2007. Factors independently associated with PO co-prescription during MMT were assessed using generalized linear mixed effects regression.
16,248 individuals with 27,919 MMT episodes at least 30 days in duration were identified for the study period. Among them, 5,552 individuals (34.2%) received a total of 290,543 PO co-prescriptions during MMT. The majority (74.3%) of all PO dispensations >7 days originated from non-MMT physicians. The number of PO prescriptions per person-year nearly doubled between 1996 and 2006, driven by increases in morphine, hydromorphone and oxycodone dispensations. PO co-prescription was positively associated with female gender, older age, higher levels of medical co-morbidity as well as higher MMT dosage, adherence, and retention.
A large proportion of MMT clients in BC received co-occurring PO prescriptions, often from physicians and pharmacies not delivering MMT. Experimental evidence for the treatment of pain in MMT clients is required to guide clinical practice. (Am J Addict 2014;23:257-264).
American Journal on Addictions 05/2014; 23(3):257-64. DOI:10.1111/j.1521-0391.2014.12091.x · 1.74 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Objective: Attention to knowledge translation (KT) has increased in the health care field in an effort to improve uptake and implementation of potentially beneficial knowledge. Weprovide an overview of the current state of KT literature and discuss the relevance of KT for health care professionals working in mental health.
Method: A systematic search was conducted using MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL databases to identify review articles published in journals from 2007 to 2012. We selected articles on the basis of eligibility criteria and then added further articles deemed pertinent to the focus of our paper.
Results: After removing duplicates, we scanned 214 review articles for relevance and, subsequently, we added 46 articles identified through hand searches of reference lists or from other sources. A total of 61 papers were retained for full review. Qualitative synthesis identified 5 main themes: defining KT and development of KT science; effective KT strategies; factors influencing the effectiveness of KT; KT frameworks and guides; and relevance of KT to health care providers.
Conclusions: Despite limitations in existing evidence, the concept and practice of KT holds potential value for mental health care providers. Understanding of, and familiarity with, effective approaches to KT holds the potential to enhance providers’ treatment approaches and to promote the use of new knowledge in practice to enhance outcomes.
Canadian journal of psychiatry. Revue canadienne de psychiatrie 03/2014; 59(3):160. · 2.55 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Prescription opioid analgesic (POA) utilization has steeply increased globally, yet is far higher in established market economies than elsewhere. Canada features the world's second-highest POA consumption rates. Following increases in POA-related harm, several POA control interventions have been implemented since 2010.
We examined trends and patterns in POA dispensing in Canada by province for 2005-2012, including a focus on the potential effects of interventions. Data on annual dispensing of individual POA formulations - categorized into 'weak opioids' and 'strong opioids' - from a representative sub-sample of 5,700 retail pharmacies across Canada (from IMS Brogan's Compuscript) were converted into Defined Daily Doses (DDD), and examined intra- and inter-provincially as well as for Canada (total).
Total POA dispensing - driven by strong opioids - increased across Canada until 2011; four provinces indicated decreases in strong opioid dispensing; seven provinces indicated decreases specifically in oxycodone dispensing, 2011-2012. The dispensing ratio weak/strong opioids decreased substantively. Major inter-provincial differences in POA dispensing levels and qualitative patterns of POA formulations dispensed persisted. Previous increasing trends in POA dispensing were reversed in select provinces 2011-2012, coinciding with POA-related interventions.
Further examinations regarding the sustained nature, drivers and consequences of the recent trend changes in POA dispensing - including possible 'substitution effects' for oxycodone reductions - are needed.
BMC Health Services Research 02/2014; 14(1):90. DOI:10.1186/1472-6963-14-90 · 1.71 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To determine the level and changes in public opinion between 2003 and 2009 among adult Canadians about implementation of supervised injection facilities (SIFs) in Canada.
Population-based, telephone survey data collected in 2003 and 2009 were analyzed to identify strong, weak, and intermediate support for SIFs.
Ontario, Canada PARTICIPANTS: Representative samples of adults aged 18 and over.
Analyses of the agreement with implementation of SIFs in relation to four individual SIF goals and a composite measure.
The final sample sizes for 2003 and 2009 were 1212 and 968, respectively. Between 2003 and 2009, there were increases in the proportion of participants who strongly agreed with implementing SIFs to: reduce neighbourhood problems (0.309 versus 0.556, respectively); increase contact of people who use drugs with health and social workers (0.257 versus .479, respectively); reduce overdose deaths or infectious disease among people who use drugs (0.269 versus 0.482, respectively); and encourage safer drug injection (0.213 versus 0.310, respectively). Analyses using a composite measure of agreement across goals showed 0.776 of participants had mixed opinions about SIFs in 2003, compared with only 0.616 in 2009. There was little change among those who strongly disagreed with all SIF goals (0.091 versus 0.113 in 2003 and 2009, respectively).
Support for implementation of supervised injection facilities in Ontario, Canada increased between 2003 and 2009, but at both time points a majority still held mixed opinions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cannabis use and driving (CUD) is a growing public health concern. This study's main objective was to identify distinguishing characteristics associated with high-frequency CUD (HFCUD) activity (i.e., CUD > 12 times) in a multi-site sample of university students who had self-identified as having driven a car within 4 hours of cannabis use in the past year. Participants for the study (n = 248; age 18-28 years) were recruited by mass advertising at five universities in Ontario. Participants were screened for eligibility and assessed by an anonymous interview between April 2005 and March 2006. Bivariate analyses determined factors associated with HFCUD (i.e., > 12 times) vs. a low frequency of CUD (LFCUD); significant factors were subsequently entered into a discriminant function analysis model. HFCUD was associated with several variables, including frequent (i.e., at least weekly) cannabis use; daily driving; perception of own ability to drive not being impaired by cannabis use; and expectation of CUD in the next 12 months (all p < 0.0001). CUD among young drivers is an important health and safety risk requiring effective interventions. Given the strong association of HFCUD with frequent cannabis use, these phenomena need to be addressed conjointly. Furthermore, preventive interventions responsive to the specific socio-cultural contexts of possible CUD need to be developed and implemented.
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 02/2014; 56(2):185-200. DOI:10.3138/cjccj.2014.ES03