Individuals who initiate injection drug use often receive assistance from an injection-knowledgeable peer. Persons who assist peers in injection initiation events often inject frequently, which heightens overdose risk. As such, overdose and injection initiation events may be correlated. To explore a potential relationship, we assessed temporal associations between experiencing a non-fatal overdose and assisting others in initiating injection drug use among persons who inject drugs in two North American cities – Vancouver, Canada and Tijuana, Mexico.
From 2014 to 2018, this retrospective cohort study included people who inject drugs from Vancouver (n=1332) and Tijuana (n=666) who completed a baseline and six-month follow-up interview. Within each site, we assessed bidirectional temporal associations using two separate multivariable logistic regression models: for model 1, recent provision of injection initiation assistance (at six months) was the outcome and recent overdose (at baseline) was the exposure; for model 2, recent overdose (at six months) was the outcome and recent provision of injection initiation assistance (at baseline) was the exposure. Both models adjusted for potential confounders.
Vancouver-based participants reporting overdose at baseline had 163% greater odds of reporting provision of injection initiation assistance at follow-up (adjusted Odds Ratio [aOR] 2.63; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] 1.41-4.90); while participants reporting provision of injection initiation assistance at baseline had 89% greater odds of reporting a non-fatal overdose at follow-up (aOR 1.89; 95% CI 1.00-3.57). Among Tijuana-based participants, we did not observe a statistically significant association in either direction.
Findings in Vancouver suggest that injection initiation assistance and overdose are bidirectionally-associated phenomena. The present findings highlight the need for interventions that ensure that persons who provide injection initiation assistance are given overdose prevention support, both for themselves and for those they assist to initiate injection drug use. While our Tijuana-based results did not suggest a bidirectional relationship, preventative approaches should nonetheless be undertaken.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.