Increases and decreases in drug use attributed to housing status among street-involved youth in a Canadian setting

  • Cheng T
  • Wood E
  • Nguyen P
 et al. 
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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Among a cohort of drug-using street-involved youth, we sought to identify the prevalence of reporting increases and decreases in illicit drug use due to their current housing status and to identify factors associated with reporting these changes.

FINDINGS: This longitudinal study was based on data collected between June 2008 and May 2012 from a prospective cohort of street-involved youth aged 14-26 in Vancouver, Canada. At semi-annual study follow-up visits, youth were asked if their drug use was affected by their housing status. Using generalized estimating equations, we identified factors associated with perceived increases and decreases in drug use attributed to housing status. Among our sample of 536 participants at baseline, 164 (31%) youth reported increasing their drug use due to their housing situation and 71 (13%) reported decreasing their drug use. In multivariate analysis, factors that were positively associated with perceived increases in drug use attributed to housing status included the following: being homeless, engaging in sex work and drug dealing. Regular employment was negatively associated with increasing drug use due to housing status. Among those who reported decreasing their drug use, only homelessness was significant in bivariate analysis.

CONCLUSION: Perceived changes in drug use due to housing status were relatively common in this setting and were associated with being homeless and, among those who increased their drug use, engaging in risky income generation activities. These findings suggest that structural factors, particularly housing and economic opportunities, may be crucial interventions for reducing or limiting drug use among street-involved youth.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Drug use
  • Employment
  • Homelessness
  • Risk behaviour
  • Stable housing
  • Street-involved youth

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Authors

  • Tessa Cheng

  • Evan Wood

  • Paul Nguyen

  • Thomas Kerr

  • Kora DeBeck

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