Palliative care for people who use drugs during communicable disease epidemics and pandemics: a scoping review on access, policies, and programs and guidelines
Background: People who use drugs with life-limiting illnesses experience substantial barriers to accessing palliative care. Demand for palliative care is expected to increase during communicable disease epidemics and pandemics. Understanding how epidemics and pandemics affect palliative care for people who use drugs is important from a service delivery perspective and for reducing population health inequities. Aim: To explore what is known about communicable disease epidemics and pandemics, palliative care, and people who use drugs. Design: Scoping review. Data sources: We searched six bibliographic databases from inception to April 2021 as well as the grey literature. We included English and French records about palliative care access, programs, and policies and guidelines for people ⩾18 years old who use drugs during communicable disease epidemics and pandemics. Results: Forty-four articles were included in our analysis. We identified limited knowledge about palliative care for people who use drugs during epidemics and pandemics other than HIV/AIDS. Through our thematic synthesis of the records, we generated the following themes: enablers and barriers to access, organizational barriers, structural inequity, access to opioids and other psychoactive substances, and stigma. Conclusions: Our findings underscore the need for further research about how best to provide palliative care for people who use drugs during epidemics and pandemics. We suggest four ways that health systems can be better prepared to help alleviate the structural barriers that limit access as well as support the provision of high-quality palliative care during future epidemics and pandemics.