The health risks of crack cocaine smoking in public settings have not been well described. We sought to identify factors associated with public crack smoking, and assess the potential for a supervised inhalation facility to reduce engagement in this behavior, in a setting planning to evaluate a medically supervised crack cocaine smoking facility.
Data for this study were derived from a Canadian prospective cohort of injection drug users. Using multivariate logistic regression we identified factors associated with smoking crack cocaine in public areas. Among public crack smokers we then identified factors associated with willingness to use a supervised inhalation facility.
Among our sample of 623 people who reported crack smoking, 61% reported recently using in public locations. In multivariate analysis, factors independently associated with public crack smoking included: daily crack cocaine smoking; daily heroin injection; having encounters with police; and engaging in drug dealing. In sub analysis, 71% of public crack smokers reported willingness to use a supervised inhalation facility. Factors independently associated with willingness include: female gender, engaging in risky pipe sharing; and having encounters with police.
We found a high prevalence of public crack smoking locally, and this behavior was independently associated with encounters with police. However, a majority of public crack smokers reported being willing to use a supervised inhalation facility, and individuals who had recent encounters with police were more likely to report willingness. These findings suggest that supervised inhalation facilities offer potential to reduce street-disorder and reduce encounters with police.