Uptake, benefits of and barriers to safer crack use kit (SCUK) distribution programmes in Victoria, Canada—a qualitative exploration

Andrew Ivsins, Eric Roth, Nadine Nakamura, Mel Krajden, Benedikt Fischer
International Journal on Drug Policy 2011, 22 (4): 292-300

BACKGROUND: Crack use is prevalent amongst street drug users in Canadian cities, and associated with severe drug use, health and social problems. Whilst few targeted interventions are available for crack use, the common use and sharing of hazardous makeshift paraphernalia are a key concern, as these risks may be associated with oral injury and blood-borne virus (BBV)--e.g., hepatitis C virus (HCV)--transmission amongst users. Recently, distribution programmes of so-called 'safer crack use kits' (SCUKs) have been initiated in select Canadian cities, primarily to reduce the use of unsafe materials and paraphernalia sharing amongst crack users. This study explored uptake and benefits of, barriers to, and possible improvements to two recently implemented SCUK distribution programme in Victoria, Canada.

METHODS: N=31 regular crack smokers were recruited through community-based efforts between June and August 2010, and assessed via an interviewer-administered protocol involving quantitative and qualitative data items. Descriptive analyses were completed with the quantitative data, and thematic content analyses were conducted with the qualitative data in order to identify and extract prominent themes and issues.

RESULTS: The sample indicated high levels of socio-economic marginalization, poly-substance use, health problems, lengthy crack use histories and common crack paraphernalia sharing. Most participants exclusively utilized the SCUK programme including glass-stems in addition to other paraphernalia materials. Participants described: lesser need to share--or to commit property crimes to obtain resources for--crack to paraphernalia, increased health awareness, and increased personal and community safety as benefits experienced from SCUK use. Limitations in SCUK resources and distribution, shortcomings in materials, and police interference were cited as barriers to current SCUK program delivery.

CONCLUSIONS: SCUK distribution in Victoria appears to result in a variety of individual and community health benefits. These benefits could be solidified by addressing current programme limitations, including better resourcing, expanding geographic distributions and eliminating police interference.

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