The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense change around the world, with vulnerable groups being disproportionately affected by the virus and the fallout of lockdowns and social distancing.
People who inject drugs are one of these more vulnerable groups. People who inject drugs often experience stigma and discrimination, which can lead to issues accessing resources such as healthcare and housing. As a result of their drug use they are more likely to find it difficult to self-isolate and could be at a higher risk of exposure to or transmitting COVID-19.
They are also more likely to experience drug related illnesses, such as hepatitis C, HIV and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These conditions can be made worse by COVID-19 and increase the risk of a more severe infection.
Social distancing measures have led to changes to drug treatment and harm reduction programmes, which may lead to increased risks from drug use. There is an urgent need for extremely rapid research to understand how changes are affecting vulnerable groups, and how we can ensure they are supported during this time.
This interview-based study is called LUCID-B: Living under coronavirus and injecting drugs in Bristol, and is a collaboration with NIHR ARC West. It is supported by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, University of Bristol, with funding from the University’s alumni and friends.
We are conducting telephone interviews with 30 people who inject drugs, to understand the challenges that people who inject drugs are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The information from the interviews can help service providers adapt what they are doing to support people who inject drugs, as well as inform policy for future pandemics.
What we found and what this means
We are publishing interim reports of our findings, covering issues such as social distancing, drug supply, accessing needle and syringe programmes, accommodation and collecting prescriptions:
Joanna Kesten, Lindsey Hines, Maggie Telfer, Rachel Ayres, Deborah Hussey, Jack Wilkinson, Jenny Scott, Hannah Family, Adam Holland, Myles-Jay Linton, Matthew Hickman, Jeremy Horwood
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