Motivations to initiate injectable hydromorphone and diacetylmorphine treatment: A qualitative study of patient experiences in Vancouver, Canada

Int J Drug Policy. 2020 Sep 16;85:102930. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102930. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Within the context of the ongoing overdose crisis and limitations of conventional opioid treatments, the scale-up of injectable hydromorphone (HDM) and diacetylmorphine (DAM) as evidenced-based treatments is currently underway in some settings in Canada. Past research has underscored the importance of treatment initiation in shaping onward treatment trajectories, however structural factors that influence participants' motivations to access injectable HDM or DAM have not been fully characterized. This study examines peoples' motivations for accessing HDM/DAM treatment and situates these within the social and structural context that shapes treatment delivery by employing the concept of structural vulnerability.

Methods: Fifty-two individuals enrolled in injectable HDM/DAM programs were recruited from four community-based clinical programs in Vancouver, Canada to participate in qualitative semi-structured interviews. Approximately 50 h of ethnographic fieldwork was also completed in one clinical setting, and one-on-one with participants public spaces. Interview transcripts and ethnographic fieldnotes were analyzed through a structural vulnerability lens with a focus on treatment initiation.

Results: Participants' previous experiences and perceptions of other drug treatments (e.g. methadone) foregrounded their initiation of injectable HDM/DAM. Social and structural factors (e.g. fentanyl-adulterated drug supply, poverty, drug criminalization) influenced participants' motivations to address immediate physical risks and their initial perception of this treatment's ability to align with their opioid use experiences. Similar social and structural factors that drive immediate physical risks, were also evidenced in participants' motivations to make changes in their daily lives and to address broader opioid use goals.

Conclusion: Participants descriptions of their motivations to initiate HDM/DAM highlight how structural vulnerabilities shaped participants' experiences initiating injectable HDM/DAM.

Keywords: Addiction treatment; Harm reduction; Opioid use disorder; Qualitative research.