Substance Use News, April 2022

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. Visit our Substance Use and Overdose Response page for more information on advocacy and resources. 

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



Advocacy and Education

Letter to Ministers Bennett and Duclos re: proposed cumulative threshold of 4.5 grams in BC
Decriminalization must be done right. You have a moral, legal, and ethical responsibility to uphold the human rights of people who use drugs; this requires you to centre their expertise. A 2.5 grams threshold will continue to inflict grave harms on our communities and must be abandoned.


The Way We Depict Drugs, and People Who Use Them, Must Change
Stock images – collections of photographs which are licensed for specific uses – are the backbone of the online visual economy. Problematic depictions of drugs in stock imagery first gained my attention whilst researching for a piece about the use of poppers in the LGBTQ+ community. These images, depicting ludicrous quantities of drugs or dangerous poly-drug use, are wildly out of kilter with both harm reduction practices, and the experiences of most people who use drugs.


Courageous Conversations on Substance Use
This webinar presented by First Nations Health Authority and BC Centre on Substance Use took place on March 15 and is now available for on-demand viewing. Part one of a two-part presentation; part two is also available.


Group pushes for ‘compassion club model’ to address surge of deaths from toxic drug supply
Prescription-based safe supply options aren’t reaching enough people and the model isn’t able to address the magnitude of the crisis. “All I can tell you is that as someone who uses drugs, we are no further ahead now than we were at the start of the declaration of the public health emergency,” says Nyx, who is the co-founder of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF), a peer-led group leading the charge for a more accessible safe supply model.


The generative potential of mess in community-based participatory research with young people who use(d) drugs in Vancouver
In this paper, the authors reflect on a partnership that began in 2018 between three university researchers and roughly ten young people (ages 17–28) who have current or past experience with drug use and homelessness in Greater Vancouver. They focus on moments when guiding principles of shared leadership, safety, and inclusion became fraught in practice, forcing them in some cases to re-imagine these principles, and in others to accept that certain ethical dilemmas in research can never be fully resolved.


Bridging a gap: Foundational harm reduction education for frontline workers
To help support the harm reduction sector’s education and capacity building, CATIE has launched an online, bilingual educational resource called Harm Reduction Fundamentals: A Toolkit for Service Providers. This was developed in partnership with a pan-Canadian working group of organizations and individuals with expertise in harm reduction.


Chemsex, PnP, crystal meth: What does harm reduction really look like?
For a few years now, our team at Clinique médicale l’Actuel has noticed an increase in patients using crystal meth. At the start of the pandemic, to address our patients’ distress and increased substance use, we secured private funding to set up a support program for our patients who use crystal meth and practise chemsex, also called PnP or party ‘n play. We also convinced the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services to carry out a pilot project with this population at the clinic.


The growing need to adapt services to address the changing modes of drug consumption
Early this year, the BC Coroners Service released a report looking at mode of drug consumption and risk of fatal drug poisoning. The data confirmed what many have known for some time – the way people are consuming drugs is changing and services to support people who use drugs need to adapt to those trends. Recently, BC Centre on Substance Use research scientist Dr. Geoff Bardwell published a commentary, “More than a pipe dream? The need to adapt safer opioid supply programs for people who smoke drugs.” BCCSU spoke to Geoff about the changes in modes of drug consumption and how services like safer supply need to adapt.


In the News

BC Government issues joint statement on the six-year anniversary of BC’s overdose emergency
Premier John Horgan; Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions; and Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, issued astatement on April 14, 2022, the six-year anniversary of drug-related overdoses being declared a public health emergency in British Columbia.


Vancouver youth losing crucial service with detox closure, advocate says
The upcoming closure of a detox program in Vancouver that has been supporting youth who use drugs for 30 years will eliminate a vital, trusted service, according to an advocate. Kali Sedgemore, a Vancouver peer outreach worker, knows first-hand what makes the program run by Directions Youth Services a one-of-a-kind resource for young drug users, particularly those who are street-involved.


Health Canada mulling lower threshold for drug decriminalization, BC minister says
Health Canada is considering British Columbia’s decriminalization request but with a lower threshold for the amount of drugs a person can carry, says Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson. She has received an update on what Health Canada has “on its mind” and has shared it with advocates. BC has requested a cumulative threshold of 4.5 grams for opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine, but Moms Stop the Harm’s Leslie McBain said the federal government is mulling a 2.5-gram cumulative threshold. The 4.5-gram cumulative threshold was already too low for many people who use drugs, says McBain.


First ever paid prescription fentanyl program launches in Vancouver
A first-of-its-kind program is making powdered fentanyl available by paid prescription in Vancouver. Dr. Christy Sutherland, medical director for PHS Community Services, the organization running the program, said the goal is to meet substance users where they are at, instead of administering alternatives like Dilaudid that patients may not find helpful.


Toronto’s New Hospital-Based Safe Consumption Site Is a First for Ontario
A specialized hospital in Toronto opened the doors to a new supervised consumption site for its patients on April 4. Casey House is a small hospital that provides care for people living with HIV. It is now home to the first hospital-based SCS in the province, though two others in the country—Edmonton’s Royal Alex Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver—have previously opened. Casey House staff believe this is a good step that will help patients who use drugs remain safe and comfortable.

Toxic Drug Deaths Continue Grim Rise
A month after government rejected coroners’ call for urgent action, another 174 deaths reported. Thursday was the sixth anniversary of the declaration of the public health emergency on overdose deaths.


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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)