Substance Use News May 2020

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. With the added layer of the coronoavirus/COVID-19 public health constraints, those working in harm reduction have heightened concerns about how to provide the safest, most dignified support to people who use drugs. For COVID-19 specific resources, including harm reduction resources, please visit our COVID-19 resources page.  See our Drug Use and Overdose Response page for resources on overdose services, team resilience, governmental reports, policy recommendations, and more.



Lifeguard app launched to help prevent overdoses

To help save more lives and ensure people who use drugs alone have access to the supports they need, the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), in partnership with regional health authorities and Lifeguard Digital Health, is launching a new made-in-B.C. resource called the Lifeguard App. The app is activated by the user before they take their dose. After 50 seconds the app will sound an alarm. If the user doesn’t hit a button to stop the alarm, indicating they are fine, the alarm grows louder. After 75 seconds a text-to-voice call will go straight to 9-1-1, alerting emergency medical dispatchers of a potential overdose.


Accessing a safe supply of drugs

A new site developed by the BC and Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors offers maps for services and drug user groups; safe supply resources; information for pharmacists and prescribers, and more.


Q&A Session about Safe Supply 

BC has released new guidance on providing safe supply to people who use drugs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. To help answer questions about the process, PAN hosted a webinar and Q&A session with harm reduction advocate Guy Felicella.


Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths in BC

BC Coroners Service Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths in BC Report shows March to April 2020 is the first time that BC has had over 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths in back-to-back months since Nov to Dec 2018.




Getting cut off safe supply prescription was like a ‘slap in the face,’ says Vancouver woman

advocates for people who use illicit substances are speaking out and calling for better measures to ensure people who qualify to receive safe supply under the new guidelines can have confidence that prescribers won’t turn them away.


BC’s move to a ‘safe supply’ for drug users has a bumpy rollout

BC’s development of guidance document to prescribe a safer supply was heralded by drug-policy experts as a significant step toward tackling an overdose crisis that has killed thousands largely because of a highly contaminated illicit drug supply. But a reluctance by many physicians and nurse practitioners to prescribe, in part because of liability concerns, means people who could benefit from these regulated medications have no way of accessing them.


When You’re in Recovery and a Pandemic Hits

The pandemic may be adding stresses and challenges to your unique recovery journey, so we are reaching out to you with some hopeful, encouraging words and helpful information about resources. Whether your recovery journey involves not using substances or using a harm-reduction approach including safer substance use, there is something for you. Via First Nations Health Authority.


Without Safe Supply, Moving Homeless People into Hotels Could Kill

Without proper consultation with people affected by a move, involvement of frontline workers and peers and immediate implementation of tailored safe supply programs, this order actually puts lives at risk. Displacing people and isolating them in hotel rooms knowing that the drug supply is toxic is a death sentence.


Drug-User Groups Innovate to Reduce the Risks of Using While Isolated

People who use drugs have looked out for each other and kept each other safe since long before government-run services swooped in. And the pandemic has likewise moved community groups to use technology to help address service gaps that put people who use drugs at increased risk. One early action was to create a list of “substance use spotters” for people in isolation.


Changes to drug supply, access to services and resulting health harms

This piece via the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition looks at what impact of COVID-19 restrictions are having on people who use drugs in terms of available services and drug supply.  Not surprisingly, “We can expect to see health consequences for people who use substances and those seeking services for substance use disorders, including increases in the number of people experiencing unsupported withdrawal and in the number of drug poisonings.” 







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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)