Study to look at ‘Welfare Wednesday’ and injection drug use

Insite is located in the Downtown Eastside.
Insite is located in the Downtown Eastside.

VANCOUVER – A new study will look at whether changing the timing of when welfare cheques are issued will affect drug overdoses among recipients who use intravenous drugs.

B.C. issues welfare cheques on the last Wednesday of the month.

In the study called Timing of income assistance payments and overdoes patterns at a Canadian supervised injection facility, it says “it has been suggested that a sudden increase in cash may act as a conditioned cue for drug consumption.”

The study was published by the Urban Health Research Initiative at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

It compiled data from Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection site, and while there have been no fatal overdoses at the facility, the study looked at non-fatal overdoses.

It found that between March 2004 and December 2010, there were a total of 1,138 “overdose events” at Insite.

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“The distribution of overdose events per 1,000 injections was not uniform over time, with a peak occurring during the three days beginning with income assistance cheque issue day,” it states in the study.

“The daily number of injections at Insite was also significantly higher on the three days beginning with cheque day than on other days.”

Now a two-year trial will begin starting next March with 300 participants. For six months residents of the Downtown Eastside will get their welfare cheques deposited directly to an account at Pigeon Park Savings and while some will still get a monthly payment on a day other than Welfare Wednesday, others will get their cheques bi-weekly.