Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 107, Issue 1, pp e88–e93 | Cite as

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

  • Kanna HayashiEmail author
  • Ben Daly-Grafstein
  • Huiru Dong
  • Evan Wood
  • Thomas Kerr
  • Kora DeBeck
Quantitative Research


OBJECTIVES: 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.

METHODS: 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.

RESULTS: 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).

CONCLUSION: 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.

Key Words

Drug abuse drug trafficking sex workers violence homeless youth 


OBJECTIFS: Les jeunes de la rue sont très vulnérables à la violence. On reconnaît que la participation à des activités génératrices de revenus dans le monde de la drogue influence la vulnérabilité des jeunes à la violence, mais la contribution relative de diverses activités génératrices de revenus demeure sous-étudiée. Nous avons voulu examiner les effets indépendants du trafic de stupéfiants et du travail du sexe sur l’expérience de la violence chez les jeunes de la rue.

MÉTHODE: Nos données ont été obtenues auprès d’une cohorte prospective de jeunes de la rue de 14 à 26 ans consommant de la drogue à Vancouver (Colombie-Britannique) entre septembre 2005 et mai 2014. Des équations d’estimation généralisées multivariées ont servi à examiner l’impact de la participation au trafic de stupéfiants et au travail du sexe sur l’expérience de la violence.

RÉSULTATS: Sur les 1 152 participants, dont 364 femmes (31,6 %), 740 (64,2 %) ont déclaré avoir connu la violence durant la période de l’étude. Selon l’analyse multivariée, la participation au trafic de stupéfiants mais non au travail du sexe restait indépendamment associée à l’expérience de la violence chez les femmes (rapport de cotes ajusté [RCa]: 1,43; intervalle de confiance de 95 % [IC]: 1,08–1,90) et les hommes (RCa: 1,50; IC de 95 %: 1,25–1,80), tandis que la participation au travail du sexe seulement n’était associée à la violence ni chez les femmes (RCa: 1,15; IC de 95 %: 0,76–1,74), ni chez les hommes (RCa: 1,42; IC de 95 %: 0,81–2,48).

CONCLUSION: Ces constatations indiquent que la participation au trafic de stupéfiants est un important facteur associé à l’expérience de la violence dans notre échantillon. En plus d’interventions classiques comme le traitement des toxicomanies, il faudrait des approches novatrices pour réduire le risque de violence chez les jeunes qui consomment de la drogue et qui sont activement impliqués dans le trafic des stupéfiants. La possibilité que les emplois faiblement qualifiés et la décriminalisation de la consommation de drogue atténuent la violence mériterait d’être étudiée davantage.

Mots Clés

abus de drogue trafic de stupéfiants travailleuses ou travailleurs du sexe violence jeunes sans abri 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kanna Hayashi
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ben Daly-Grafstein
    • 1
    • 3
  • Huiru Dong
    • 1
  • Evan Wood
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thomas Kerr
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kora DeBeck
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Research Scientist, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDSSt. Paul’s HospitalVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Human Biology ProgramUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.School of Public PolicySimon Fraser UniversityVancouverCanada

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