Researchers hit Ottawa streets to interview addicts

A research team has quietly taken to the streets to survey Ottawa drug users.

It’s part of an effort, by Participatory Research in Ottawa Understanding Drugs, to create a profile of the situation in the capital.

Volunteers are reaching out to hard drug users in the most vulnerable situations, many of whom regularly use IV drugs.

Over the past several months, they’ve interviewed more than 400 addicts on a range of topics, including drug use, homelessness, education and supervised injection sites.

“We want to do it because people are dying,” said Richard Sproule, a group member. “A lot of the people are in very dangerous situations.”

The group hopes to interview as many as 1,500 drug users in the first initiative of its kind.

They hope the hands-on research project will paint an accurate portrayal of the situation in the city, which they say is likely underestimated.

Participants are also offered rapid HIV testing.

The specially designed questionnaire was developed with the help of recovering addicts.

The data, which will take months more to collect, will then be analyzed and brought to the attention of medical health officials.

“Ottawa has really lagged behind in harm reduction,” said Sproule, a recovering addict. “We’re fighting against that.”

Some of the drug users have been approached on the streets, while others are known to use shelters.

Each drug user surveyed is paid a $20 honorarium for two hours of their time.

It means the organizers have paid out about $8,000 so far, from money that comes from fundraising, grants and private donations.

A screening process includes the use of code numbers for participants to ensure no one doubles up.

Early data suggests the majority (81%) of participants think there should be a supervised injection site in Ottawa, with 68% of those who’ve injected in the past year saying they’d turn to one.

Fentanyl is also a popular high on the street, the numbers suggest, with nearly 40% who’ve injected the powerful patches.

The potent painkiller has been a growing concern for Ottawa police.

A recent prescription drug seizure here that turned up Fentanyl was believed to be connected to drug-trafficking in Manotick, a community that drew a heightened awareness to the drug after a suspected overdose death of a teen there last year.

By Danielle Bell
Source: Ottawa Sun