People who inject drugs are likely to find it difficult to self-isolate and may be in contact with other high-risk individuals, such as drug dealers, making transmission of COVID-19 extremely likely.
They are also at high risk of drug related illnesses such as hepatitis C, HIV and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which may put them at risk of more severe infection if they contract the virus.
At the same time, social distancing has forced changes to the provision of drug treatment and harm reduction programmes, which may make them more difficult to access and lead to increased risks from drug use.
The researchers will conduct telephone interviews with people who inject drugs in Bristol to understand the effects of recent service changes and the challenges they pose.
The knowledge generated will lead to a better understanding of the needs of people who inject drugs during the pandemic. This information will be fed back to treatment providers and local government to adapt current provision and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on this group.
Dr Lindsey Hines, Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol and study lead, said:
“People who inject drugs face multiple risks from COVID-19. This group already experiences many health and social inequalities, with greater risk of illness, infection and early death compared to the general population. They are also more likely to experience stigma, issues accessing health care and homelessness. These risks are likely to increase due to the pandemic.
“We will be working with Bristol Drugs Project to understand the challenges people who inject drugs are experiencing and to help to adapt service provision.”