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    Factors Influencing Women’s Injection Drug Practices

    Background

    Unsafe injecting drug use (IDU) is a significant factor in HIV transmission among women who inject drugs. Risk behavior varies and may differ according to social, contextual, and behavioural domains. Women injection drug users face higher risks of disease than men.

    Method

    • In-depth interviews with 26 participants

    Theoretical Approach

    • Grounded Theory which involves “generating theory and doing social research as two parts of the same process” in order to understand participant, concerns, actions, and behavior (Glasser, 1978).

    Findings

    Theme 1: Transition from non-injection to injection drug use (IDU)
    Cost of sniffing or smoking drugs was cited as primary reason for deciding to inject.
    Considered a social experience shared with friends, partners, and spouses.
    Advised by peers about the benefits: use less drugs; spend less money; and get a better, quicker high than if they sniffed.

    Theme 2: Ways into drug injecting
    No women were alone the first time they injected.
    A friend or relatives injected more than half of the participants.

    Theme 3: Shift towards autonomy or reliance
    Most participants identified as self injectors
    Those who required injecting assistance often spoke of “being second on the needle.” These individuals reported experiences of physical harm and damage to veins.

    Results Summary
    The transition process from non-injection drug use to injection drug use (IDU) was largely influenced by a woman’s social network. Women injection drug users were often the ones to encourage the uptake through the spread of myths such as: more efficient, a way to curtail daily drug costs, and promise of amplified high
    Women expressed pressure of their social network prior to injecting.
    Interestingly, many women received their first injection from a female friend or relative rather than male partner.
    Several respondents required injection assistance throughout their injecting career due to lack of knowledge or deference to an injector because of anxiety or withdrawal.
    Women who require injection help are more likely to share syringes.

    Conclusion
    Findings suggest a need for the development of peer-driven interventions with strong female representation to dispel myths to dissuade women from transitioning to injection drug use. In addition, interventions should address personal capability of self- injection due to the additional negative health risks associated with injection by others. Although the findings are not generalizable to other WIDU populations, findings highlight the importance of targeting interventions towards the specific needs of women injection drug users.

    Tuchman, E. (2015). Women’s injection drug practices in their own words: a qualitative study. Harm Reduction Journal. Vol., 12. Pp. 6.