Substance Use News September 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 Harm Reduction 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.


In the News

BC Government News Release: Toxic drugs claim lives of 192 British Columbians in July 2022
The 192 lives lost in July represent a 31% increase over the number of deaths recorded in June 2022 (147), and equates to approximately 6.2 deaths per day. Nearly 1,300 deaths due to toxic
drugs have been reported to the BC Coroners Service between January and July, which is a record number for the first seven months of a calendar year.


Overdose education should be mandatory in BC schools, advocates say
When a teenage girl collapsed on the SkyTrain in Coquitlam, BC, passengers calling 911 thought she had fainted or was having an epileptic seizure. It was only when paramedics administered naloxone that some realized she’d overdosed on an opioid, said Chloe Goodison, who was sitting beside her. It was a life-changing moment for Goodison, who would be inspired to study health sciences and set up a group called NaloxHome that educates high school students about what an overdose looks like and how to use naloxone.


Health Canada Denies Compassion Club Exemption for Safe Supply
Drug User Liberation Front’s August 2021 submission to Ottawa had the support of Vancouver city council, Vancouver Coastal Health, the BC Centre on Substance Use and the First Nations Health Authority. But on July 29, Health Canada denied DULF’s application to be exempt from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and formalize the compassion club model of safe supply across B.C. in a 15-month evaluative pilot program, the group announced Wednesday.


In ‘Heroin,’ author lays bare the injustice and systemic racism behind Canada’s drug laws
In Heroin, author Dr. Susan Boyd points to our failure to address the overdose death epidemic and the decades of resistance to harm-reduction policies. The book looks at two centuries of Canadian heroin regulation and explores themes such as systemic racism’s contribution to prohibition and the structural violence of drug policies that use criminalization as the main response to drug use.


Every death is personal on the frontlines of Yukon’s opioid crisis
The territory leads the country in per capita toxic illicit drug-related deaths. In the first three months of 2022, the Yukon’s chief coroner said the territory’s substance use death rate was 74.4 per 100,000 — over three times the national average and well ahead of British Columbia, the province with the second-highest total at 45.3 deaths per 100,000.


New York Times podcast examines Vancouver overdose crisis, safe supply approach
In a podcast episode for the New York Times’ “The Daily,” reporter Stephanie Nolen addresses the fact that deaths have continued to increase, noting that “harm-reduction is still a tiny, tiny fraction of the overall spending – the bulk of the money that goes into responding to substance use in Vancouver goes into residential treatment programs and interventions that are focused on total sobriety, adding “Safer supply, it’s a very small part of the intervention, and right now, they’re only aiming to reach a small number of long-term users.”


Advocacy and Education

More than 6 drinks a week leads to higher health risks, new report suggests — especially for women
Any level of alcohol consumption had a net negative impact on health for almost every disease reviewed by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) according to their new report. This includes heart disease, several types of cancer and liver cirrhosis. The health risks become “increasingly high” when someone has six or more drinks per week. And for women who have three or more drinks per week, the risk of health issues increases more steeply compared to men, research shows.


Stigmatizing Drug Use Is Killing Us, But Why Is It So Hard to Stop?
Drug use stigma is contextual. Moral judgement of drug users is often hypocritical, as well as discriminatory. People often make ethical allowances to justify their own methods for getting buzzed. “I think there’s still this intense othering of people who use certain types of drugs and this notion of a distinct us versus them,” Dr. Sarah Wakeman, medical director for substance use disorder at Mass General Brigham hospital in Boston said. “We have bars, which are perfectly socially acceptable for the people who are making the laws and policies that then criminalize people who need a safe space to use other types of substances.”


Clinical outcomes and health care costs among people entering a safer opioid supply program in Ontario
London InterCommunity Health Centre (LIHC) launched a safer opioid supply (SOS) program in 2016, where clients are prescribed pharmaceutical opioids and provided with comprehensive health and social supports. We sought to evaluate the impact of this program on health services utilization and health care costs. In the time series analysis, rates of Emergency Department visits, hospital admissions, and health care costs not related to primary care or outpatient medications declined significantly after entry into the SOS program.


For Holden. I’ll Miss You Forever
Tara McGuire lost her son seven years ago. Her new book explores her grief, his final days and his imagined future. “Why point a searchlight into the painful depths of my son’s darkest moments?” McGuire writes in the book’s afterword. “Because not talking perpetuates the suffering. More of the same silence that causes substance users to feel ashamed, judged and isolated will not protect anyone, change anything, nor prevent any more deaths.”




Visit the BC Centre for Disease Control’s Unregulated Drug Poisoning Emergency Dashboard for provincial data from different sources.


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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)