Research Round Up: Intro

Research Round Up: Intro


Reviews of medical research relating to and/or informed by harm reduction

Prevention Point Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania’s only aboveground harm reduction clinic, offers a variety of services- needle and works distribution, naloxone distribution, overdose prevention training, and rapid hepatitis C testing. In 2013 I’d been volunteering at Prevention Point fairly regularly for about three years. I was also a new nurse.

Over the years there I had repeatedly heard that the organization wanted to establish a wound care program. With one year under my belt working in an oncology/medical ICU, I had encountered lots of wounds, I had done a lot of wound dressings, and had read lots of reports and recommendations from the wound and ostomy nurses. I didn’t actually know a lot about wound care, but I thought- I could learn, right? So this began a long and bizarre journey into researching wounds and wound care specific to people who inject drugs (PWIDs).

I assumed that there would be some straightforward guides to wound care available on, like, amazon. There are some wound care guides and textbooks, but ultimately they are pretty vague, mostly about different types of dressings and brands, and make almost no mention of wounds related to injection drug use. Through my hospital’s library I had access to a lot of academic journals and research articles, and I found that there was not very much written on this subject (though I am happy to say that research is growing quickly). Gathering a body of knowledge about injection drug use wounds sent me to the far corners of medical research- including the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, the Archives of Surgery, and Emergency Radiology. But also turned me on to some consistently good research publications like the International Journal of Drug Policy, and the American Journal of Public Health. And it’s probably not a big surprise that a lot of the best research out there is being done overseas. I amassed a small textbook of articles, typically with a very narrow focus (e.g.- How to Treat Arterial Ulcers in the Groin), and these, as a whole, started to develop a more complete idea about best practice relating to wound care for PWIDs.

All of this is to say, that there’s a lot of good information out there- not only for practitioners of wound care- but also for people who inject drugs. However, a lot of this information is difficult to access without being in school, or having professional or academic credentials. So, I hope to use this space to give updates on new research on all things related to keeping yourself and your veins healthy when injecting drugs.