Substance Use News July 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.


Overdose Response Reports from the BC CDC

Overdose Response Reports from the BC Centre for Disease Control include weekly and monthly data trends and updates.  The monthly report illustrates a Geographic Distribution of Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths by Health Service Delivery Area.



Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police call for decriminalization of possession of illicit drugs for personal use

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) announced that the association is recommending that all police agencies in Canada recognize substance abuse and addiction as a public health issue to help reduce drug overdoses and is endorsing the decriminalization of personal possession of illicit drugs. Findings and recommendations report: Decriminalization for Simple Possession of Illicit Drugs: Exploring Impacts on Public Safety & Policing



Civil society organizations renew call for drug decriminalization

Yesterday, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) released a report calling for an end to the criminalization of simple drug possession (i.e. possession for personal use). We welcome this important acknowledgement by law enforcement and urge the federal government to decriminalize now. Public health experts and civil society organizations across the country have long called for drug decriminalization. Now the CACP has publicly added its voice to the call to end the criminalization of simple possession. The way forward is clear: We need full decriminalization that leaves behind any and all criminal sanctions and other penalties for the offence of possession.



Lack of Planning in Bill 22 Would See Increased Drug Fatalities for Indigenous Youth in the Midst of Opioid Crisis

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs issued a July 22 statement, Lack of Planning in Bill 22 Would See Increased Drug Fatalities for Indigenous Youth in the Midst of Opioid Crisis. “To see this legislation tabled during a time when the reality of systemic and blatant racism towards Indigenous peoples and other people of colour is undeniable, is extremely troubling and emblematic of a system that seeks to oppress rather than to support,” stated Kukpi7 Judy Wilson of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. The Bill has since been put on pause for the moment.



Safer opioid distribution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Fentanyl is the predictable outcome of opioid prohibition and the main victims are the people who are dying of overdoses. Even if emergency housing can be found and mitigation strategies to reduce COVID-19 transmission are put in place, the need to access an illegal drug supply makes staying in place extremely unlikely.



“The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act: the Good, the Bad and Ineffective” – new research from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

In 2019, with the support of a research grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (HIV Legal Network) embarked upon a research study in Ontario to evaluate familiarity with the Good Samaritan law, and what people who have experience with drug use believe to be true about this law.



Listen: Why BC’s former health officer wants to produce legal heroin

This CBC podcast epsiode (20 minutes) features a conversation with Dr. Perry Kendall on his plans to launch a company to produce a domestic supply of affordable, legal and pharmaceutical-grade heroin.



Canada supports safer supply pilot project in BC

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, along with the Honourable Judy Darcy, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer, Island Health, announced approximately $2 million in funding for a pilot project within Island Health. The innovative project will provide pharmaceutical-grade medication as an alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply for people in Cowichan Valley who have not responded to other forms of treatment for opioid use disorder.



Canada should listen to the experts and decriminalize drug possession

There’s been hardly a day since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that our leaders have failed to assure us that they’re doing what health officials are telling them to do. Let’s hope those same leaders — particularly at the federal and provincial levels — can finally see their way to applying that same attitude to another health crisis, one that predates COVID-19 and, even now, continues to worsen.



June Overdose Toll Hits Record; 15 Times More Deadly than COVID-19

Every one of the deaths could have been prevented if governments dealt with drug use as a health issue, said Dr. Perry Kendall, former provincial health officer and co-interim executive director at the BC Centre on Substance Use. “That each one of these deaths was entirely preventable makes this emergency all the more tragic.”



Addressing trauma in substance use disorder: a critical gap in service amplified by COVID-19

A commonly-held belief in the addiction field is that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but rather connection. Isolation can worsen PTSD, increasing the risk of substance use. Combine this with the greater contamination of the drug supply due to border closures, and the increased risk of overdose when using alone, and the result is a recipe for disaster. Here are are three broad areas of improvement through which we will move toward an integrated approach to treating SUD and PTSD.







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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)