Background: North America's first government sanctioned supervised injection facility (SIF) was opened in Vancouver in response to the serious health and social consequences of injection drug use and the perseverance of committed advocates and drug user groups who demanded change. This analysis was conducted to describe the attendance, demographic characteristics, drug use patterns, and referrals made during the first 18 months of operation.
Methods: As part of the evaluation strategy for the SIF, information is collected through a comprehensive on-site database designed to track attendance and the daily activities within the facility. All users of the SIF must sign a waiver form and are then entered into a database using a unique identifier of their choice. This identifier is used at each subsequent visit to provide a prospective record of attendance, drug use, and interventions.
Results: From 10 March 2004 to 30 April 2005 inclusive, there were 4764 unique individuals who registered at the SIF. The facility successfully attracted a range of community injection drug users including women (23%) and members of the Aboriginal community (18%). Although heroin was used in 46% of all injections, cocaine was injected 37% of the time. There were 273 witnessed overdoses with no fatalities. During just 12 months of observation, 2171 individual referrals were made with the majority (37%) being referred for addiction counseling.
Interpretation: Vancouver's SIF has successfully been integrated into the community, has attracted a wide cross section of community injection drug users, has intervened in overdoses, and initiated over 2000 referrals to counseling and other support services. These findings should be useful for other settings considering SIF trials.