Substance Use News, June 2022

Substance Use News provides a monthly collection of news and resources on the social, medical and political responses to the toxic drug supply crisis. Visit our Substance Use and Overdose Response page for more information on advocacy and resources. 

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In the News

Modelling projections for opioid-related deaths to December 2022
June 23, 2022: The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released new modelling projections of the number of opioid-related deaths that may occur over the course of the coming months. The results of the model suggest that, under some scenarios, the number of opioid-related deaths may remain high and may even increase through to December 2022.


Teens to learn in school how to use naloxone, intervene in case of an overdose
High school students across Canada will soon be learning how to administer naloxone nasally, in case of an opioid overdose. The opioid antidote can be used to temporarily counteract an overdose if a powerful opioid, like fentanyl, is ingested. The new training will be initially deployed in select schools in Quebec, Alberta, Ontario and BC, before being expanded across the country.


Interior Health promotes 100 Mile’s overdose prevention site
Interior Health is encouraging South Cariboo residents to spread the word about its episodic overdose prevention site to help prevent overdoses in the community. The site offers a “comfortable, clinical space” for people looking for medication-assisted treatment and safer alternatives to the toxic illicit drug supply. A nurse prescriber is on-site Monday to Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM.


Montreal public health director wants small amounts of illegal drugs decriminalized in city
Montreal’s public health director says she wants to follow in the footsteps of British Columbia, which will see the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs as of next year. “We want to make sure … that we have this tool in our harm reduction strategy for Montreal,” said Dr. Mylène Drouin.


Canada took a step toward decriminalizing hard drugs. Here’s what it can learn from other countries
Advocates say decriminalization alone won’t stop Canadians dying, because the drug supply is uniquely toxic. As many Canadian public health experts call on lawmakers to go a step further — and replace black market street drugs with a regulated safe supply — their international counterparts say they are watching to see what their countries can learn from one another. Hear thoughts from harm reduction advocates in Estonia, Portugal, Switzerland, and Oregon.


Why decriminalizing drug possession won’t fix Canada’s toxic supply
In the past decade, the illicit drug supply has gone from unthinkably bad to unimaginably worse as fentanyl has completely overtaken heroin and even more dangerous drugs have entered the supply. The actual amount of heroin in Canada fell by more than 60 per cent over five years as fentanyl took over — leading to an unpredictable and dangerous supply.


Advocacy and Education

Frequency of fatal and non-fatal overdoses and response to grief and loss among people who inject drugs: An unexplored dimension of the opioid overdose crisis
This is the first quantitative study of overdose-related grief and loss in people who inject drugs. It found that a higher burden of overdose events was associated with more severe grief and loss responses, and recommends that bereavement efforts should consider the complex nature of overdose-related grief and loss.


“Youth who use drugs become adults who use drugs”
Vancouver and Lisbon, while worlds apart, are both boasted for their global leadership in innovating progressive harm reduction policies and services. A group of researchers from both cities partnered with a committee of young people who use drugs to share whether their respective cities were meeting young people’s needs in the context of unstable housing and homelessness.


Through their eyes: Listening to 2SLGBTQIA+ youth about their experiences with opioids
Youth have unique experiences with opioids and the myriad systems of care. That’s especially true for those who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+. Listening to those youth about their experiences with opioids can help inform how programs and services are designed to better support them. We spoke with Trevor Goodyear, a research assistant with BCCSU and PhD candidate at UBC’s School of Nursing, about a recent photovoice project documenting the experiences 2SLGBTQIA+ youth have with opioids.


Hep C Outreach and Anonymity at Harm Reduction Vending Machines
New research out of Australia, published in the Harm Reduction Journal, suggests that the vending machine sites could be a point of contact between people who use drugs and hepatitis C testing and treatment. In short, members of medical or harm reduction organizations could set up near the machines and offer people referrals or contact details for hepatitis C services.


“COVID just kind of opened a can of whoop-ass”: The rapid growth of safer supply prescribing during the pandemic documented through an environmental scan of addiction and harm reduction services in Canada
In the context of the ongoing overdose crisis, a stark increase in toxic drug deaths from the unregulated street supply accompanied the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Injectable opioid agonist treatment (iOAT – hydromorphone or medical-grade heroin), tablet-based iOAT (TiOAT), and safer supply prescribing are emerging interventions used to address this crisis in Canada. Given rapid clinical guidance and policy change to enable their local adoption, our objectives were to describe the state of these interventions before the pandemic, and to document and explain changes in implementation during the early pandemic response (March–May 2020).


CBC’s The Current talks to Dr. João Goulão — the man often credited with taming Portugal’s drug crisis — about how Canada could save lives during the opioid crisis



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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)