Substance Use News, August 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 coronavirus/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. 

Info for People Who Use Substances: get the latest alerts, and tips on how to stay safe from Toward the Heart.


In the News

Statement: International Overdose Awareness Day: BC Must Accelerate Action to End Deadly Opioid Overdose Crisis
August 31: The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) observes International Overdose Awareness Day with sadness and compassion, and we send our thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by the intensifying opioid public health emergency that is continuing to devastate and endanger the lives of Indigenous peoples across the province. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip appeared on CBC’s The Early Edition to speak to the issue.


More than 1,000 British Columbians lost to toxic illicit drugs in first half of 2021
August 31: At least 1,011 lives were lost to suspected illicit drug toxicity in B.C. between January and June 2021, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service. As with previous months, the illicit drug supply in BC is both variable and increasingly toxic, with extreme fentanyl concentrations and carefentanil showing up more frequently in toxicology testing. Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe appeared on CBC’s the Early Edition right after the drug death figures were released.


Overdose awareness day shines light on more than 7,700 B.C. lives lost — and what’s still at stake
August 31: Ola is among the more than 7,760 British Columbians who have died from illicit drugs during BC’s overdose crisis, which was declared a public health emergency in 2016. Their lives are being remembered for International Overdose Awareness Day on Tuesday. The annual campaign, which originated in Australia in 2001, aims to break the stigma surrounding drugs and addiction while raising awareness about overdose prevention and drug policy.


It’s Time to Remember and Time to Act to Prevent Overdoses
August 31: BCCDC is highlighting the voices of those who have been most impacted by the public health emergency and sharing information to encourage action. The members of PEEP, a committee of professional consultants with past or present substance use experience from throughout BC, have issued a statement for International Overdose Awareness Day. The statement identifies five priorities for future work on policies related to drug use and harm reduction.


Federal Election 2021: Where They Stand on the Toxic Drug Crisis
August 27: When drug policy advocate Leslie McBain looks through the platforms of Canada’s major political parties, she wonders whether they understand the toxic drug crisis that has killed more than 21,000 Canadians since 2016. McBain said much is missing in the federal government’s response and that lives are on the line.


Moms Stop the Harm and Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society Launch Legal Action Against Alberta Government
August 24: The Government of Alberta is threatening the health and safety of people who use drugs by rolling back reforms introduced by the federal Liberals in 2017 and imposing additional barriers to accessing supervised consumption services. The Liberal reforms in 2017 made it easier to set up harm reduction services in the province. In response, Moms Stop the Harm and the Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society (LOPS) have commenced legal action against the Government of Alberta to ensure that no additional barriers to access and provision of life-saving supervised consumption services are introduced.


Former student at St. Michael’s residential school site says healing lodge would be good use of the land
August 6: After a five-day gathering on the former site of the St. Michael’s Indian Residential School for survivors, Keith Burns gave his input on what should be done with the site. “They should build some kind of healing lodge here to help with residential school because it doesn’t just happen with us like it’s going to go for generations,” Burns told APTN News.



Advocacy and Education

#CanadaVotes2021 – The Questions to Ask Regarding the Drug Poisoning Crisis
When deciding who to vote for consider party positions on the much-ignored drug poisoning crisis that has taken so many of our loved ones. Moms Stop the Harm has developed a report card on federal party responses on key issues to drug policy and practice.


Federal Election: Why Aren’t we Talking About the Opioid Epidemic?
“When you lose a child to the opioid crisis, it can be terribly isolating. We’re judged because our child used drugs. We must have been bad moms and bad dads. So you grieve alone, you grieve apart from the rest of your community.”




Hitting the Mark: Ending the HIV Pandemic by Realizing Rights for People Who Use Drugs
The HIV Legal Network held its annual Symposium on HIV, Law, and Human Rights in June. This year’s symposium — Hitting the Mark: Ending the HIV pandemic by realizing rights for people who use drugs — provided a virtual forum for diverse stakeholders to share their real-world experience and for experts in the field to present updates on the current status of decriminalization, supervised consumption services, and safe supply in Canada. Summary and video available now.


Crackdown Podcast Episode 26: Artificial Energy
The “social adaptation” model of addiction is the idea that people take drugs because they are useful. There’s something about the world that makes drug use more appealing, rational, or necessary. This is true for lots of drugs. Episode 26 of Crackdown looks specifically at crystal meth.


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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)