Substance Use News, February 2021

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

BC Coroners Service Releases Report on Overdose Deaths
On Thursday February 11, 2021, the BC Coroners Service released the report on overdose deaths for 2020.This post shared the report and some community response.

Four New Safer Drug Supply Projects to Launch in BC
Ottawa funds three pilots in Vancouver and one in Victoria to test models that help people avoid poisoned illicit drugs. “This can help not only Vancouver Coastal Health, not only B.C., but the rest of the county in identifying new models for preventing overdose deaths,” said Coastal Health chief medical officer Dr. Patricia Daly.

BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS to expand Safer Drug Supply in the DTES
The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is grateful for the funding awarded by Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). The $3.6M for 2020 to 2023 will support an evidence-informed innovative Safer Drug Supply Program at the BC-CfE’s Hope to Health Research & Innovation Complex in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The Hope to Health Complex has offered primary care to DTES residents with the support of an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, counsellors, and peer navigators. The model of care provides ‘wrap-around’ healthcare to clients, ensuring they receive the full continuum of care under one roof.

First nurses trained to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to illicit drugs to substance users in rural BC
The first cohort of nurses joining physicians, pharmacists and nurse practitioners as points of access for pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs is only trained to prescribe buprenorphine/naloxone, known as Suboxone, but training for other alternatives like slow-release oral morphine and methadone will come in later phases.


Advocacy and Education

(February 18) Bill C-22 introduces welcome drug policy amendments but falls short, advocates say
Today, the HIV Legal Network welcomes some of the amendments in Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Bill C-22 repeals mandatory minimum sentences for all drug offences, increases the availability of conditional sentences, and provides alternatives to criminal charges for people in possession of drugs for personal use. These are all positive. But the bill falls short by failing to simply repeal the criminal prohibition on personal drug possession, even while it acknowledges that drug use is a health issue and that criminalization causes harm and contributes to stigma.

(March 1) Statement on suspension of injectable opioid agonist treatment (iOAT) in Alberta
Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Friends of Medicare, Moms Stop the Harm, and HIV Legal Network are deeply concerned about the health and safety impacts to vulnerable individuals accessing life-saving injectable opioid agonist treatment (iOAT) in Alberta.

When My Suboxone Doctor Quit on Me, It Left a Frightening Void
Early in 2020, shortly before pandemic entered the everyday lexicon and face masks became de rigueur, I went to my scheduled Suboxone appointment to find the doctor’s office more sterile than usual.

How a Chemsex Activist Teaches Yoga as Harm Reduction to Trans and Cis men
Adam Nathan Schultz, a Polish migrant based in the Netherlands, has launched Breathing Space Yoga—a harm-reduction-oriented, Zoom-based program for transgender and cisgender men who have sex with men, and who are struggling with their sexualized use of chems, namely methamphetamine, GHB/GBL and synthetic cathinones.

Changing the Story on Addiction Care
If you don’t already listen, The Addiction Practice Pod brings clinical training straight to listeners’ ears. The podcast is hosted by David P. Ball, a multimedia journalist with 20 years of experience writing for top global news outlets and local independent favourites. Along with his co-host Dr. Christy Sutherland, the podcast covers practical tips and guidance for substance use care from both experts in the medical field and people with lived experiences.

Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction
Jasmine is a harm reduction outreach worker with AVI. She says, “It’s incredibly empowering to not see the life that I lived as a shameful part of my life, but just a part of my life. And also to be told that having the knowledge of that lifestyle is valuable, that is something that allows me to bring better understanding to the work I do now.”



Substance Use in Canada 2021
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction wants to learn about the impact of the overdose crisis on harm reduction service providers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please consider taking part.

‘Running myself ragged’: Stressors Faced by Peer Workers in Overdose Response Settings
Peer workers or ‘peers’ (workers with past or present drug use experience) are at the forefront of overdose response initiatives and their role is essential in creating safe spaces for people who use drugs (PWUD). A new research paper published in the Harm Reduction Journal in January 2021 describes five themes pointing to stressors felt by peer workers working in overdose response settings in BC.

Syringe Programs Key to Connecting Women With PrEP, Research Shows
American study looks at how co-locating HIV prevention medicine and syringe service programs in the same building can help people achieve better health outcomes.



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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)