The London examine goals to assist drug customers inject extra safely in hospitals


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London researchers have embarked on a rare four-year project to help people injecting drugs in hospitals do so more safely while having confidence in hospital care.

The city will be the only place in North America to implement harm reduction strategies like safe injection rooms and clean needles in hospitals, and the legal and social challenges are many, scientists at the Lawson Health Research Institute said Friday.

However, studies showing people injecting drugs while in hospital, getting sicker than at home and leaving hospital without adequate treatment make the effort imperative, researchers said during an online press conference.

“Can we improve hospital care by introducing harm reduction strategies, encouraging people to participate in their own care, and reducing the overall need for services?” Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, assistant science director at Lawson, said.


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The research team will recruit up to 360 past or current methamphetamine users, ages 16 to 35, and based on their perspectives and those of up to 180 health and other providers, strategies to reduce harm at the London Health Sciences Center and St. Joseph Health Care Websites. By the fourth year, up to 120 participants will be involved in the study.

But the first change, say people who inject, has to be in the attitudes of hospital staff.

Too often the drug user is “treated like a pariah and pushed aside and thrown through,” said Dave, a drug user and harm reduction associate for the Regional HIV Aids Connection. “When you feel like you don’t play a role, that feeling is reinforced in the hospital.”

The project builds on the results of other studies that may shock those outside the medical field: first, that people in the hospital continue to inject drugs and often use intravenous lines that are used for other treatments; second, that these patients get infections more often when they are treated in hospital than in other situations.

Almost half of patients inject drugs during their hospital stay, and that’s likely an underestimate as many fail to report their use, said Michael Silverman, chief of infectious diseases at the London Health Sciences Center (LHSC) and St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

Increased infections could be due to people “using the tap water (in the hospital) to dilute the drugs they wanted to inject. At home, they may be able to get sterile water from needle services, ”he said.


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That’s not to say that people shouldn’t seek help in hospitals, Silverman quickly added. “We want to make hospitals safer and make it a place where people are going to inject anyway to make it safer.”

Research has found that 40 percent of drug users have been discharged from hospital against medical advice, which can put them at risk and complicate their health problems, Silverman said. “How can we improve the experience so that patients don’t unsubscribe against medical advice?”

According to researchers, harm reduction has been proven in the community and reduced the medical problems associated with injecting drug use.

Hospital care, however, remains a barrier to treatment as customers with untreated wounds, abscesses, broken bones and other problems show up at the city’s safe place to eat, said Sonja Burke, director of harm reduction services at the regional HIV / AIDS association.

“Instead of asking what is wrong with the person, we need to ask what is wrong with the service delivery model,” she said.

The study is funded by Health Canada, which must approve illicit drug use in a hospital when testing harm reduction strategies.

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