Substance Use News December 2019


Substance Use News provides a snapshot of news and resources for those working to support folks who use substances. We share pieces on the social, medical and political responses to the opioid crisis, from advocacy to welcome change. See our Drug Use and Overdose Response page for resources on overdose services, team resilience, governmental reports, policy recommendations, and more.


Decriminalization is not a radical solution to the opioid crisis. And it would work

This opinion piece comes from Dr. Jane Philpott, Canada’s former Minister of Health.
If every life is of value, then it’s time to get beyond our prejudices and political biases and implement the steps that will save lives. The solutions are not mysterious. Decriminalization sounds radical but it’s the sensible approach. After all, addiction is not a crime. It is not weakness or moral failure. It’s a health issue.


From zero tolerance to open dialogue: How harm reduction is shifting the conversation on drug use

This White Coat, Black Art segment can be listened to or read.
Harm reduction focuses not on abstinence, but minimizing harm and potential danger. The number of such initiatives in Canada has grown in recent years, but it hasn’t come without pushback. “We have been, you know, living in a society where abstinence or zero-tolerance policies have been the ones that have, I think, politically felt the most comfortable,” said Sally Jenkins, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia School of Nursing.


If I Were the Minister of Health: Best advice for addressing Substance Use and Addiction

Sixth Estate’s Spotlight series, in conjunction with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA)’s 2019 conference, assembled a panel of public health, enforcement, youth and Indigenous experts and stakeholders to hear the top recommendations for the minister when it comes to how best to address substance use and addiction. Speakers included:

  • Gord Garner, Executive Director of the Community Addictions Peer Support Association
  • Ian Culbert, Executive Director of the Canadian Public Health Association
  • Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association
  • Petra Schulz, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm
  • Guy Freedman, president and senior partner of the First Peoples Group


Guideline supports people living with alcohol addiction

British Columbians dealing with high-risk drinking or alcohol use disorder will be connected to services that better suit their needs. A new made-in BC guideline helps fill a crucial gap in the province’s system of care for people with addictions.


Study investigates how opioids have shaped the prison experience for inmates and altered the work of correctional officers in Canada

Prisoners told researchers they were increasingly concerned about the prospect of overdosing, a new study reports. The extreme potency of fentanyl and carfentanil means users can overdose on small amounts and the opioids are often mixed into other street drugs. The study raises questions about how well Canadian prisons are equipped to deal with the ongoing epidemic and the research suggests programs that focus on harm reduction may be the answer.


Nearly 14,000 Canadians killed by opioids since 2016, new federal data says

Close to 14,000 Canadians have been killed by opioids and more than 17,000 have been hospitalized for opioid-related poisoning over the last four years, according to federal report, “Opioid-related harms in Canada“.


Drug deaths are down, but thousands are still overdosing in BC, coroner says

The number of illicit drug overdose deaths has dropped in British Columbia, but the coroners’ service says users need to remain cautious about an unpredictable and toxic drug supply.


Learn More

Visit our Drug Use and Overdose Response page


Questions? Feedback? Get in touch! Janet Madsen, Capacity Building  and Knowledge Translation Coordinator, [email protected]





Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)