Shifts in substance use patterns among a cohort of people who use opioids after delisting of OxyContin in BC, Canada: An interrupted time series study

Int J Drug Policy. 2022 Nov;109:103852. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103852. Epub 2022 Sep 16.


Background: OxyContin was delisted from Canadian provincial drug formularies in March 2012 and replaced with a reformulated tamper-resistant form of oxycodone (i.e., OxyNeo). We assessed if delisting of OxyContin was associated with changes in the use of unregulated opioids and other substances among people who use opioids (PWUO).

Methods: Data were derived from two prospective cohort studies of people who use drugs in Vancouver, BC, Canada from 2006 to 2018. PWUO who had at least one follow-up visit before and after delisting of OxyContin were included. Outcomes of interest were self-reported regular (i.e., at least weekly) use of heroin, non-prescribed prescription opioids, cannabis, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and powder cocaine during the previous six months. Using quasi-experimental interrupted time series, we fit generalized least squares models to assess participants' immediate and long-term substance use practices after the policy change.

Results: We analyzed data from 1014 participants who contributed to 17457 visits during the study. Following the delisting of OxyContin, heroin use increased immediately by 5.17% (95% confidence intervals [CI]: 0.68 to 9.67) and over time by 0.47% (0.35 to 0.58) per month. Non-prescribed prescription opioid use increased immediately by 1.80% (0.10 to 3.50) and over time by 0.16% (0.12 to 0.19) per month. Cannabis use increased immediately by 4.37% (0.88 to 7.87) and over time by 0.11% (0.02 to 0.19) per month. Methamphetamine use did not increase immediately but increased over time by 0.10% (0.01 to 0.18) per month. Crack cocaine use decreased immediately by 6.13% (-10.94 to -1.69) but not significantly over time. Lastly, powder cocaine use did not increase immediately or over time.

Conclusions: Delisting of OxyContin in BC was not associated with a reduction in unregulated opioid use among PWUO. Our findings point to a shift in substance use patterns of PWUO post-intervention and further highlight the unintended consequences of supply-reduction interventions in addressing the opioid epidemic.

Keywords: Canada; Interrupted time series; Opioid-related disorders; OxyContin; Prescription opioids; Substance use.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Crack Cocaine*
  • Heroin
  • Humans
  • Interrupted Time Series Analysis
  • Methamphetamine*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Oxycodone
  • Powders
  • Prospective Studies


  • Oxycodone
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Heroin
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Powders
  • Methamphetamine