Thursday, June 30, 2016

The relationship between violence and engagement in drug dealing and sex work among street-involved youth

Street-involved youth are highly vulnerable to violence. While involvement in income-generating activities within illicit drug scenes is recognized as shaping youths' vulnerability to violence, the relative contributions of different income-generating activities remain understudied. We sought to examine the independent effects of drug dealing and sex work on experiencing violence among street-involved youth.

Data were derived from a prospective cohort of street-involved youth aged 14-26 who used drugs in Vancouver, British Columbia, between September 2005 and May 2014. Multivariable generalized estimating equations were used to examine the impact of involvement in drug dealing and sex work on experiencing violence.

Among 1,152 participants, including 364 (31.6%) women, 740 (64.2%) reported having experienced violence at some point during the study period. In multivariable analysis, involvement in drug dealing but not sex work remained independently associated with experiencing violence among females (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 1.43; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.08-1.90) and males (AOR: 1.50; 95% CI: 1.25-1.80), while involvement in sex work only was not associated with violence among females (AOR: 1.15; 95% CI: 0.76-1.74) or males (AOR: 1.42; 95% CI: 0.81-2.48).

Findings indicate that involvement in drug dealing is a major factor associated with experiencing violence among our sample. In addition to conventional interventions, such as addiction treatment, novel approaches are needed to reduce the risk of violence for drug-using youth who are actively engaged in drug dealing. The potential for low-threshold employment and decriminalization of drug use to mitigate violence warrants further study.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia; British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.
  •  2016 Jun 27;107(1):e88-93. doi: 10.17269/cjph.107.5219. 

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