VANCOUVER - Health workers have long known of the highly addictive properties of crystal methamphetamine but a new study backs up the link between use of the drug and future injection drug use.

The findings are contained in a report by researchers with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. In one of the first studies of its kind, 478 street youth in Vancouver were interviewed and 94 per cent reported it was "very easy" to find the drug on city streets.

Seventy-one per cent of teens in the study reported using crystal meth.

Dr. Thomas Kerr, one of the authors of the federally funded report, says researchers determined street kids who started using crystal meth were three times more likely to turn to injection drugs.

Kerr says the study highlights the need for an innovative drug policy to address the growing problem because injection drug use leaves addicts vulnerable to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.