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AVAILABILITY OF METHADONE TREATMENT FOR ILLICIT OPIATE USERS IN MONTREAL

Suzanne Brissette, Martin Rioux, Jessica Gallant, Julie Bruneau
Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec

Background: There is an estimated 5,000-6,000 illicit opiate users in the Montreal region. Illicit opiate use is associated with serious health problems and high harm-related costs. Despite an important increase in methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) accessibility in Montreal, it is still not available on demand.
Objectives: To identify sociodemographic characteristics, risk profiles and treatment utilisation of out-of treatment illicit opiate users.
Method: This study is part of the OPICAN cohort study. Baseline data was collected from March to November 2002 through interview-driven questionnaires and HIV, HCV and HBV saliva testing.
Results: Among the first 68 participants, 76.5% were male and the mean age was 27.19 (± 8.53). 50% relied on welfare and 21% reported unstable housing. Heroin was the major illicit opiate used and 92.1% had injected in the last 30 days. Needle sharing was reported by 22.4% of participants. HIV and HCV prevalences were 16.2% and 42.6%. IV Cocaine and crack were used respectively by 72% and 30.9% of the participants. 44.4% of these illicit opiate users had previously received methadone in detox or MMT, 27% tried but could not get methadone and 31% reported that they would like to be in MMT. Only 29.4% had a regular family physician, although 51.5% had visited an emergency room in the last 6 months. Data on all baseline participants will be presented. Subjects will be compared according to their treatment experience and attitude towards methadone.
Conclusion: These preliminary findings suggest that out-of-treatment illicit opiate users are relatively young, also use IV cocaine and engage in high-risk behaviour. However, HIV and HCV prevalences are relatively low. Interestingly, more than a third of this population is motivated towards MMT.

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