Substance Use News, September 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

Toxic illicit drug supply claims lives of 184 British Columbians in July
September 29: More than 1,200 people have died as a result of toxic drugs in the first seven months of 2021, according to the latest preliminary reporting from the BC Coroners Service. “The deaths of another 184 of our community members in July is a stark reminder of the tragic and unrelenting trajectory of this public health emergency,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.


BC’s Rate of Drug Toxicity Deaths Has Overtaken Ohio and Pennsylvania
September 29: If British Columbia’s death rate doesn’t slow down, over 2,000 people could die this year of a drug overdose. As federal leaders jockeyed for votes in the weeks leading up to the Sept. 20 election, drug policy advocates said they were looking for concrete action — but the parties were coming up short.


Drug decriminalization movement gaining momentum in Canada as overdose deaths surge
September 29: The country’s largest mental health teaching hospital, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, is for the first time formally pushing for countrywide drug decriminalization, joining national advocates and several major cities in putting pressure on the federal government to act.


Prescription Inhalable Heroin Is Coming to BC. Will the Province Embrace It?
September 17: The first shipment of inhalable prescription heroin procured by BC’s only non-profit pharmaceutical company will arrive from Europe by the end of the month, a step that experts hail as key to curbing the surging overdose crisis. But provincial government efforts to expand safe alternatives to increasingly poisoned and fatal street drugs have so far stopped short of prescription heroin.


Every 49 Minutes
September 1: Every 49 minutes. That’s how frequently people died of drug poisoning in Canada during one dreadful week last summer. Here, their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters share a message: the opioid crisis touches everyone.



Advocacy and Education

Decriminalize Now!
The Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs (CAPUD) is suing the government of Canada to remove the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) penalties (decriminalize) all forms of drug possession and some forms of drug trafficking. Learn more. Read news coverage.


Ending the toxic drug crisis means addressing racism and colonialism
To end the drug-poisoning crisis, we must first acknowledge the harms perpetuated by ongoing colonial policies and systems that ensure the prevalence of Indigenous-specific racism in the health system and beyond. We must then acknowledge that policy changes to these systems are imperative for the health and well-being of BC First Nations, and take actions to make these changes.


Childhood Trauma Changes How Morphine Feels
This is the first study to link childhood trauma with the effects of opioids in people without histories of addiction, suggesting that childhood trauma may lead to a greater sensitivity to the positive and pleasurable effects of opioids.


Finding Their Inner Light: Mothers Recover From Addiction With Support of Indigenous Healing Camp
Many Indigenous women taking part in a healing camp in Saskatchewan have never attended an Indigenous ceremony and learn about them for the first time at the camp. One of the first ceremonies the women experience is a spirit name ceremony, often an emotional moment, where tears of joy, pride, and connection are shed, after receiving a traditional name.


Strychnine and Vomit: The Untold Story of Past US Addiction Treatments 
Many of us might assume that the addiction treatments of the past were invariably cruel and dehumanizing. Some were. This interview looking at Kenneth Anderson’s new book shows that other practitioners had a more enlightened attitude. It casts the abusive and humiliating practices that persist today in an even worse light; more optimistically, it suggests that cruelty against people with addiction doesn’t have to be a permanent part of our culture.


The Opioid Crisis isn’t the same in every place in the US
Few if any communities in the United States have escaped the opioid crisis, and in 2020, opioid overdose deaths rose sharply across the entire country. But the opioid crisis plays out differently from place to place and over time. In some states, the crisis is more profound in rural communities while in other states, it’s more of a problem in cities.



Province launches website to connect people with mental health, substance use supports
The Wellbeing website features a guided search tool that helps users find a curated, personalized list of services based on answering simple questions about who they are and what they need. This site is particularly useful for people who are seeking help for the first time and need extra guidance in learning about the information and supports that are available to them. Take a look

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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)