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2015 Substance Use Trends

812 Clients Surveyed at 34 Sites

To obtain more comprehensive information about drug use and related harms, and to evaluate the BC Harm Reduction program, an annual province-wide survey has been conducted beginning in 2012. For 2015, 812 surveys were completed at 34 harm reduction supply distribution sites across BC’s five health authorities. The 2015 survey was updated to reflect the rise in fentanyl use, and distributed to improve representation from all health authorities.

Respondents by Health Regions

Summary of Survey Results

Recent Substance Use

  • 96% of survey respondents reported using a substance in the past 7 days.
  • Marijuana (58%), crystal meth (47%), heroin (47%) and alcohol (42%) were the 4 most commonly reported substances.
  • 67% reported using any opioid (including methadone) in the last week, and opioid use was lowest in NH (53%) and highest in VCH (84%).
  • Crystal meth use has increased and crack use has decreased. Although heroin use dipped slightly (40%) in 2013, it has remained close to 50% for other years.

Fentanyl Use

  • 19% reported intentionally using fentanyl in any form (pills, patches and powders) in the past 6 months. The lowest proportion was in VCH (11%) and the highest in VIHA (24%).

Needles: Injection Drug Use, Needle Availability and Sharing

  • 60% reported injecting any substance within the past week. Of these, 21% reported having difficulty finding new rigs (needles) within the past month.
  • 14% injected with a used needle.

74% who injected in the past month would use a supervised injection service

Pipes: Use, Availability and Sharing

  • 65% reported using a pipe to smoke any drug, with 55% using it for crystal meth and 53% to smoke crack.
  • Using a pipe to smoke crystal meth was greatest in FH (82%) and lowest in VCH (22%). For crack, it was greatest in VCH (73%) and NH (72%), and lowest in FH (34%).
  • 47% reported not sharing, lending or selling a pipe and/or mouthpiece.
  • Of people using a pipe to smoke crack only 33% reported using a brass screen while 78% used Brillo®. The latter can lead to wire wool breaking off and being inhaled.


  • 19% of those who used an opioid reported experiencing an opioid overdose in the six months prior, while 38% witnessed one.
  • Of the 86 respondents who experienced an opioid overdose, 9% reported receiving naloxone. Of the 262 people who witnessed an opioid overdose, 17% reported administering naloxone.
  • Of those who used an opioid, 20% had a Take Home Naloxone kit, while nearly 60% wanted to be trained on the use of a kit.

Over half of all respondents didn't have a THN kit but wanted one

Peer Groups

  • Only 20% reported being involved with a drug user group even though they provide peer support and education, foster personal growth, and help to improve the quality of life of many people who use drugs.

Read the complete report for more stats and how they break down across health authorities >>


Age ranged from 19 to 76 years with a median of 43 years. 60% were male, and 31% self-reported as Aboriginal Peoples.

Sexual Orientation

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85% reported being Straight, with Bisexual next at 7%.

Housing Stability

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47% lived in their current location for over a year, while 20% reported no fixed address.

Number of Substances Used

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1 to 14 substances, with a median of 4 substances.

Sites & Supplies

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79% lived in the same community as the harm reduction site where they completed the survey. 42% traveled under 10 minutes.

Nearly all who picked up supplies in the past month reported some difficulty, mostly because the site was closed.

91% reported that they felt respected by the staff

Read the complete report >>