Presenting author: Koharu Loulou Chayama
Presenting author biography:
Loulou (she/her) is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia and a research coordinator at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use. Her research draws upon qualitative and community-based methods to explore the social and structural factors that impact people who use drugs.
Young sexual and gender minority men’s perspectives on drug checking services in Metro Vancouver, Canada: a qualitative study
Koharu Loulou Chayama, Pierre-julien Coulaud, Olivier Ferlatte, Rod Knight, Lianping Ti
Background: Young sexual and gender minority (SGM) men experience elevated risk of drug-related harms. To help facilitate safer drug use among this population, improving their access to drug checking services, where people can receive fact-based information about the contents in their drug samples, alongside other harm reduction supports is critical. We explored young SGM men’s experiences and acceptability of drug checking services during the ongoing overdose crisis and a corresponding set of efforts to scale up drug checking services in Metro Vancouver, Canada.
Methods: Between January and December 2018, semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 50 young (ages 18-30) SGM men living in Metro Vancouver. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded. Salient themes were identified using inductive and deductive approaches.
Results: Two key themes were identified. First, participants generally had limited awareness and experience with drug checking services. Nevertheless, given concerns over the increasingly toxic drug supply, they perceived benefits to getting their drugs checked, including because they felt drug checking services would reduce their risk of overdose. Second, participants identified social (e.g., stigma), structural (e.g., drug criminalization), and spatial (e.g., lack of services outside of the inner-city neighbourhood of the Downtown Eastside) barriers in the current context of drug checking services. To improve access, participants encouraged the expansion of drug checking services in community settings (e.g., bars) and through community-based approaches (e.g., integration within existing and well-regarded community sexual health programming) tailored for SGM men.
Conclusion: Young SGM men will benefit from an expansion of drug checking service availability. Efforts to scale and adapt drug checking services need to account for the social, structural, and spatial contexts that shape the lives of young SGM men, including through collaborations with existing and trusted community resources and support networks.