British Columbia

Washrooms top choice for drug use in Victoria, study finds

Co-author says the increasing use of unsanitary washrooms as locations for injection drug use means more risk of infection and overdose. It also means workers at agencies and NGOs are increasingly being relied upon to provide life-saving services.

Co-author says study proves need for supervised consumption site in Victoria

An injection kit is shown at a supervised injection facility in Vancouver. UVic professor Bruce Wallace says Victoria needs a supervised injection site — and soon. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A University of Victoria professor says Victoria desperately needs a supervised injection site or public washrooms will continue to be the drug use location of choice.

Bruce Wallace is the co-author of a report which surveyed 80 local drug users and found 58 per cent used social service agency washrooms to consume drugs in the second half of 2015 — up from 28 per cent in the first half of the year.

Forty-three per cent used other service agency washrooms, such as those in shelters.

"Basically, shelters are at the forefront of this crisis, Wallace told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"People who are accessing harm reduction services in town are accessing supplies, but we still have no safer place for people who inject drugs. Washrooms in non-profits are maybe seen as ... unsanctioned, unsupervised but better than no options."

The number of overdose-related calls in Victoria doubled over 2015, and Wallace says increasing homelessness, a lack of harm reduction services and the introduction of fentanyl are responsible.

'It's really traumatic'

Wallace says the increasing use of unsanitary washrooms as locations for injection drug use means more risk of infection and overdose.

Bruce Wallace says, increasingly, it's up to shelter workers to become first responders. (CBC)

It also means workers at agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are increasingly being relied upon to provide life-saving services.

"It's really traumatic to be continually responding to overdoses for shelter workers and harm-reduction workers," he said. "They're bringing back so many people, but the overdose itself is traumatic, and we could be preventing these events if we had full harm reduction."

"We have this public health emergency, but we're still waiting for these emergency measures."

Wallace and other activists called for supervised consumption services in Victoria at a candlelight vigil in Centennial Square, Wednesday night.

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Washrooms top choice for drug use in Victoria, study finds

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