Impact of migration from an illicit drug scene on hospital outcomes among people who use illicit drugs in Vancouver, Canada

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2020 Jun 2. doi: 10.1111/dar.13095. Online ahead of print.


Introduction and aims: People who use illicit drugs (PWUD) are vulnerable to an array of negative health outcomes, and increased hospital services utilisation. PWUD are also a transient population which poses challenges to the provision of optimal health care. The objective of this study was to identify out-migration patterns from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES), a neighbourhood where services for PWUD are concentrated, and to estimate the impact of these patterns on hospitalisation events among PWUD.

Design and methods: Data were collected through three prospective cohorts of PWUD in Vancouver, which were linked with health administrative data. Latent class growth analysis was used to define migration trajectory groups. Poisson regression was used to estimate the effect of migration patterns on hospitalisation events.

Results: A total of 1180 participants were included in the study. Four latent classes were identified: early migration out (243, 20.6%); frequent revisit (112, 9.5%); late migration out (219, 18.6%); and consistently living in the DTES (606, 51.4%). Compared with those who consistently lived in the DTES, participants in the early migration out group had lower hospitalisation events (adjusted rate ratio = 0.65; 95% confidence interval: 0.48-0.90).

Discussion and conclusion: We found that PWUD who migrated out of the DTES early had lower hospitalisation events compared to those who consistently lived in the DTES, which may be a function of lesser addiction severity among this trajectory group. These findings underscore a need to provide transitional health and social service supports for other trajectory groups in an effort to minimise hospitalisation for preventable causes.

Keywords: hospital outcomes; illicit drugs; migration patterns.