Substance Use News: October 2020

Substance Use News provides a snapshot of news and resources for those working in harm reduction. 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.


In the News

Opioid deaths skyrocket, mental health suffers due to pandemic restrictions, new federal report says
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Canadians suffering from mental illness, opioid addiction and other substance abuse problems, says a new study released today by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) which confirms anecdotal reports warning that the pandemic’s health consequences extend well beyond the novel coronavirus itself.


More resources needed for drug users in BC suburbs, advocates say
Giuseppe Ganci, director of community development at Last Door Recovery, says he’s been advocating for years for health-care and government leaders to focus more on more preventative measures, particularly for drug users in the suburbs.


Federal health minister calls on Alberta government to rethink closure of opioid treatment program
Canada’s health minister is urging the province to backtrack on its decision to defund Alberta’s injectable opioid agonist treatment program, which is set to close next spring. Funding for the pilots is scheduled to end by March 2021. “We are disappointed by this decision from the Alberta government, and we urge them to reconsider,” said Davidson.


Vancouver city council approves Yaletown overdose prevention site (October 20)
On October 20, Vancouver city council voted to approve an overdose prevention site in Yaletown after a long debate which divided those who supported it and residents concerned about its location across from a popular park.


Vancouver’s Proposed New Overdose Prevention Site Goes to Council. It Got Heated (October 14)
More than 100 people signed up to speak to council about a proposed indoor overdose prevention site in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood. Some said overdose prevention sites, where substance users are observed and supported, would save lives and reduce problems like discarded needles. Others said the site would harm the neighbourhood and likened harm reduction services to making “taxpayers fund the terror they experience every day.”


BC recorded 127 overdose deaths in September, coroner reports
The September total marks a decrease from August, but is more than double the number from same month last year.


Advocacy and Education

It’s time to decriminalize drug possession in Vancouver!
Pivot Legal Society requests folks step up and support their petition to decriminalize drug possession in Vancouver. “Decriminalizing drug possession at a local level is not only urgent but also well within the power of municipal governments to achieve.”


My Safe Supply: how Canadians who use drugs want safe supply delivered
Stimulus Connect is an online community for Canadian stakeholders in harm reduction and drug policy to come together, learn and network on specific topics. My Safe Supply was live in September and is now available for on-demand viewing.


Crackdown Podcast: Cut Off
In 2015, Crackdown editorial board member, Jeff Louden, was on morphine pills for his chronic pain. The medication allowed Jeff to find some stability and avoid Vancouver’s increasingly dangerous drug market. But, when Jeff’s doctor unexpectedly cut down his medication, he turned to the street to outrun dopesickness. In episode 20 of the podcast, Garth Mullins investigates what happened to Jeff. What can it tell us about North America’s so-called “overprescribing crisis?”


Consultation on the development of new regulations under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act with respect to supervised consumption sites and services
Since the HIV Legal Network’s inception, the organization has advocated for drug policies that respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of people who use drugs, including through effective, equitable access to harm reduction services. We are pleased to make this submission in relation to the development of new regulations on supervised consumption sites and services.


Substance use disorders and trauma- and violence-informed care
Episode 3 from Addiction Practice Pod takes a deep dive into trauma and its links to substance use disorder, as well as the concept of trauma- and violence-informed care. Addiction Practice Pod is a new podcast focussing on addiction and substance use care for health care providers in British Columbia and Yukon.



Satellite Sites: Providing harm reduction from the homes of people who use drugs
New guide from CATIE: Harm Reduction Satellite Sites: A Guide for Operating Harm Reduction Hubs from the Homes of People Who Use Drugs. The guide was developed to be helpful for community-based service providers who would like to develop this kind of programming, or explore other models of providing health and harm reduction services to people who use drugs, particularly in residential and other community settings where they are most needed.


Report: The Global State of Harm Reduction, 2020
The Global State of Harm Reduction is the only report that provides an independent analysis of harm reduction in the world. Now in its the seventh edition, the Global State of Harm Reduction 2020 is the most comprehensive global mapping of harm reduction responses to drug use, HIV and viral hepatitis. Visit Harm Reduction International site.


Comic from HIV Legal Network educates about the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act

This comic illustrates one of our important findings: that while overdoses are a medical emergency, police are often attending overdose scenes – with negative consequences for people who use drugs – despite the fact that police presence has not been requested nor is it warranted.







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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)