Area restrictions, risk, harm, and health care access among people who use drugs in Vancouver, Canada: A spatially oriented qualitative study

Area restrictions prohibiting people from entering drug scenes or areas where they were arrested are a common socio-legal mechanism employed to regulate the spatial practices of people who use drugs (PWUD). To explore how socio-spatial patterns stemming from area restrictions shape risk, harm, and health care access, qualitative interviews and mapping exercises were conducted with 24 PWUD with area restrictions in Vancouver, Canada. Area restrictions disrupted access to health and social resources (e.g., HIV care) concentrated in drug scenes, while territorial stigma prevented PWUD from accessing supports in other neighborhoods. Rather than preventing involvement in drug-related activities, area restrictions displaced these activities to other locations and increased vulnerability to diverse risks and harms (e.g., unsafe drug use practices, violence). Given the harms stemming from area restrictions there is an urgent need to reconsider this socio-legal strategy.

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Health & Place
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada