CCHE Seminar Series: Disrupting the process of injection drug use initiation – Findings from the PRIMER study

Dan Werb
St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, University of California – San Diego

Friday March 13, 2020, 10am-12pm, HSB 108 (155 College Street)

Abstract: In 2018 alone, the North American opioid overdose epidemic led to almost 4,500 annual OD deaths in Canada and over 67,000 in the United States, and has contributed to a reduction in the life expectancy of men in Ontario for the first time since the 1960s. Preventing opioid overdose is therefore a critical public health goal with broad implications for reducing root causes of morbidity and mortality in North America. Between 40-60% of people who inject drugs (PWID) are estimated to have previously experienced an OD, and the proportion of opioid users that inject in the United States is increasing. As such, upstream prevention of injection drug use (IDU) initiation is critical to curtailing current and future OD mortality and reducing the population-level prevalence of substance use disorders. It is also a longstanding goal of stakeholders seeking to prevent other IDU-related harms beyond OD, particularly ongoing HIV and hepatitis C virus epidemics in all global hemispheres. This presentation will present findings from the PReventing Injecting by Modifying Existing Responses (PRIMER) study, an international cohort consortium seeking to characterize and disrupt the process of IDU initiation.

Dan Werb is an addictions epidemiologist and the author of City of Omens: A Search for the Missing Women of the Borderlands, which was chosen by The New York Times Book Review as one of six true crime books to read in Summer 2019.  Booklist described City of Omens as, “a powerful addition to investigative coverage of the volatile borderland,” and Kirkus Reviews praised its “steely focus and smooth, vivid prose.” Dan’s work has also appeared in Salon, The Believer Magazine, Walrus Magazine, the Globe and Mail, and VICE, among others.

Dan is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. He is also the Director of the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation, which conducts high-impact research and knowledge translation on improving the effectiveness of drug policy. Dan has published dozens of studies on issues related to addictions, drug policy, and HIV, with a focus on identifying the impact of policy and public health interventions on marginalized drug-using populations. Dan is the recipient of an Avenir Award from the National Institute of Drug Abuse and a Traiblazer Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He is also the winner of a Canadian National Magazine Award for his popular science writing on injection drug use.