Targeted prevention key to helping crack users

Canada.com – health
July 26, 2010.   Postmedia News

Targeted prevention and treatment programs can help crack users in smaller communities, according to a study from a Simon Fraser University researcher.

In a paper to be published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, health sciences researcher Benedikt Fischer’s team documents a recent investigation of the social, health and drug-use characteristics of 148 primary crack cocaine users in the mid-sized British Columbia communities of Nanaimo, Campbell River and Prince George.

“In many B.C. communities, crack use is the No. 1 street drug problem, yet we give it much lower attention than other forms of drug use,” Fischer said in a news release.

The study found that participants were at a “crucially elevated risk” of health problems in part due to unstable housing, illegal incomes and frequent run-ins with the law.

Participants often had both physical and mental health problems and crack use tended to happen along with other legal and illegal substance use. These users also had HIV and hepatitis C rates similar to primary injection-drug users and many users with hepatitis C didn’t know they were infected.

The study subjects used materials such as scrap metal, metal piping or broken glass to use crack, causing injuries Most participants “saw any attempt to quit crack as a futile effort” because of a lack of viable treatment options.

Citing the “high prevalence of crack use” across Canada, the study calls for improved resources and training for health workers, improved accessibility to infectious disease testing in the study locations, “crack kit” distribution programs that include information on prevention and health care, safer inhalation facilities for crack users and more research into and expansion of treatment options.

“We need better and more targeted prevention and treatment for crack use in order to reduce its enormous negative public health impact,” Fischer said.

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