Utilization of opioid agonist therapy among incarcerated persons with opioid use disorder in Vancouver, Canada [2018]

•Utilization of opioid agonist therapy (OAT) in correctional settings in Vancouver remains low.

•Most utilizing OAT were continuations rather than new initiations on the medication.

•Utilizing OAT was negatively associated with overdose if continued on release.

Inability to access opioid agonist therapy (OAT) in correctional settings has previously been reported in Vancouver, Canada, and is associated with harms among people with opioid use disorder (OUD), including overdose death. We investigated the prevalence and correlates of OAT utilization within correctional settings among incarcerated persons with OUD in Vancouver.

Data were derived from three prospective cohorts of people who use drugs in Vancouver between 2005 and 2016. Using multivariable generalized estimating equations, we examined factors associated with OAT utilization among participants with OUD reporting incarceration in the past six months.

Among 597 eligible participants, 207 (34.7%) contributed 325 reports of having utilized OAT while incarcerated. Of those, 295 (90.8%) were continuations and 30 (9.2%) were new initiations of OAT while incarcerated. For those currently on OAT (at the time of interview), in multivariable analyses, non-fatal overdose (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.49, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.29-0.82) and daily prescription opioid use (AOR = 0.42, 95% CI: 0.20-0.85) remained independently and negatively associated with having utilized OAT while incarcerated. For those not currently on OAT, none of the variables considered had significant associations with utilization of OAT while incarcerated.

Utilization of OAT in correctional settings was low in our sample. Utilization of OAT was significantly and negatively associated with overdose and ongoing prescription opioid misuse if OAT was continued upon release from correctional settings. Findings underscore the urgent need for improved utilization of OAT in correctional settings, and linkage to community care to prevent harms such as overdose.

Nikki Bozinoff, Kora De Beck, M-J Milloy, Ekaterina Nosova, Nadia Fairbairn, Evan Wood, Kanna Hayashi
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 193, 1 December 2018