Navigating post-eviction drug use amidst a changing drug supply: A spatially-oriented qualitative study of overlapping housing and overdose crises in Vancouver, Canada

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 May 1;222:108666. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108666. Epub 2021 Mar 18.

Abstract

Background: North American cities are experiencing intersecting housing and overdose crises as illicit drug markets become marked by the proliferation of fentanyl and methamphetamine. Despite recent research documenting associations between evictions and drug-related risks and harms, including overdose, the mechanisms through which these occur remain poorly understood. This study to examines how evictions shape the drug use practices of people who use drugs in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside - a neighbourhood with an established drug scene - as the illicit drug supply changed.

Methods: Qualitative interviews and geo-spatial data collection were conducted with 56 recently evicted PWUD. Data were analyzed by interfacing qualitative and geo-spatial data, and interpreted focusing on how structural vulnerability shaped spatial practices and drug-related risks post-eviction.

Results: Findings demonstrate how post-eviction spatial practices and routines produced risk and harm as participants navigated the uncertainties of housing vulnerability and drug supply changes. Post-eviction disruptions complicated participants' ability to engage with trusted drug sellers. Changes to spatial patterns and access to private spaces rendered public drug use inevitable, though this was mitigated to some degree by harm reduction supports. Abrupt changes to drug use patterns occurred due to post-eviction disruptions and included instrumental uses of methamphetamine to increase alertness and navigate survival amidst severe hardship.

Conclusions: Findings demonstrate how post-eviction changes to routines and spatial patterns are framed by structural vulnerability and can exacerbate drug-related harms, particularly in the context of a changing drug supply. There is an urgent need for structural interventions and harm reduction responses to mitigate harms associated with evictions.

Keywords: Community-based research; Fentanyl; Housing; Methamphetamine; Overdose; Qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Drug Overdose* / epidemiology
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Substance-Related Disorders*

Substances

  • Illicit Drugs