Canada is currently experiencing an opioid crisis which has emphasized the need for timely access to drug addiction treatment programs such as detoxification or opioid agonist treatment (OAT). Access to addiction treatment may help reduce or eliminate substance use which helps to reduce the risk of HIV and HCV. There is a need to understand potential barriers and facilitators to access and retention in addiction treatment programs in Atlantic Canada to ensure people who use substances can access such services when needed.
This is a qualitative community-based research study. Voluntary, confidential, one-on-one interviews were conducted from Jan-April 2019 with 55 individuals seeking treatment or in treatment living in the four Atlantic provinces. Participants provided informed consent. An honorarium was provided. Participants were recruited through community-based harm reduction organizations. Interviews focused on experiences of participants in the last two years when trying to get in, trying to stay in and/or leaving addiction treatment programs. Data were coded and analyzed for key themes using ATLAS (qualitative software program).
Initiative Objectives and Goals
To understand the experiences of individuals in accessing publicly-funded addiction treatment programs in Atlantic Canada; to understand how the policies and practices of addiction treatment programs act as barriers and/or facilitators to access and retention; and to understand how experiences when accessing or when in a program influence individuals’ drug-using practices.
The Role of this Initiative to End the HIV Epidemic
This research highlights the need to understand the perspectives of individuals who are seeking or who are in treatment of what does not work for them in terms of access to and retention in addiction treatment, and to modify programs accordingly. Having appropriate practices and policies within treatment programs is critical to ensuring access and retention to addiction treatment programs and reducing transmission of HIV and HCV.
Meaningful Engagement with People with Lived Experience
Individuals with lived experience and those from affected communities are included in the core study team, including involvement in study planning, implementation, and knowledge translation and exchange.
Primary target audience
People who use substances
Secondary target audience
People supporting people who use substances (including family members, those working in community-based organizations and drug addiction support programs)
Strategic marketing and support tactics
Website, social networks, email campaign and webinar/seminar(s).
Of the 55 participants who were interviewed, the majority identified as male (60%), Caucasian (85.5%) and were between the ages of 19 and 30 years old (64%). Almost half (49%) did not have enough income to meet their daily needs (for example: food, housing) and most (82%) lived in a city. Participants reported numerous challenges to accessing addiction treatment programs. These challenges exist at three points in time: trying to get into treatment; when in treatment; and leaving treatment. In many instances, these challenges are because of practices and policies that do not “fit” with the socioeconomic reality of individuals’ lives. This research highlights the need to understand the perspectives of individuals who are seeking or in treatment of what does not work for them in terms of access to and retention in addiction treatment, and to modify programs accordingly. Having appropriate practices and policies within treatment programs is critical to ensuring access and retention to addiction treatment programs and reducing transmission of HIV and HCV. View our interactive "Story Map" of key findings to see more.
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