Substance Use News, October 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. Info for People Who Use Substances: get the latest alerts, and tips on how to stay safe from Toward the Heart. Visit our Substance Use and Harm Reduction page for more resources. 


In the News

Closing Gaps, Reducing Barriers Report and Response

BC’s Select Standing Committee on Health released the Closing Gaps, Reducing Barriers: Expanding the response to the toxic drug and overdose crisis on November 1. Response has included disappointment-  “The report stopped short of recommending bolder options many experts and advocates have called for” (The Tyee) and observation that the report is too timid (CBC News). CBC also notes “IMinister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson did not signal any major changes in the province’s response to the crisis after the report’s release” (italics ours). See more details in this post about the report.


Toxic Drug and Health Alerts

Toxic drug and health alerts are currently available in Interior and Fraser Health Regions. Toward the Heart and BCCDC have partnered with health authority and community partners to send anonymous toxic drug and health alerts by text in BC. People can get other information by text message, like where to find naloxone or how to get drugs tested. Toxic drug and health alerts is a free, real-time text messaging service for anyone to receive toxic drug alerts or share information about toxic drugs in their community. This service is anonymous.


New First Nations Health Authority Project Recognizes Grief Experienced by People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Toxic Drugs

Honouring Our Loved Ones is a safe and welcoming digital space where friends and family members can share a story to honour someone they’ve lost using a video, photo, artwork or an audio recording. This virtual space is a safe place to remember, honour and grieve. For each loved one, the FNHA will grow a tree to remember them. These trees will be planted in the spring of 2023 in a dedicated area in the health region where the storytellers live.


MMHA and Ministry of Health respond to BC Coroners Service Death Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths

The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and Ministry of Health have released a response to the the BC Coroners Service Death Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths which was published in March. “The Ministries of Health, and Mental Health and Addictions, as well as health authorities have undertaken a comprehensive review of actions that respond to the recommendations contained in the report.” They outline the action to date and upcoming in the three recommended areas in the Coroners report. Read MMHA and MoH response. Review BC Coroners Service Death Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths


Harm Reduction Services Are Slowly Spreading Around the World

Around the world, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental crisis and warfare, harm reduction services are slowly spreading. Global State of Harm Reduction 2022, a report released by Harm Reduction International on November 1, details many developments, from new syringe service programs (SSP) to new safe consumption sites (SCS), that paint a somewhat brighter picture than in recent years.


‘It’s the same thing as giving them CPR training’: rural first responders’ perspectives on naloxone

This American study study finds widespread support for increasing access to naloxone and training laypersons in naloxone administration throughout Montana, due to rural first responders’ inability to meet the needs of residents and an overall lack of resources to address addiction and the effects of fentanyl.



Advocacy and Education

“Harm reduction saved my life”

Years into recovery, I never forgot the kindness of Haven Wheelock. My family had forced me into treatment twice, only for me to relapse and OD. I walked into the syringe exchange scared and alone. I’d had a Hep C exposure. There was just kindness and genuine compassion. For me, at my worst. It was a jarring experience. Every other signal from society was “you’re worthless garbage.” But Haven just said, “How are you? What do you need?”


HIV spike among BC drug users associated with COVID-19-related service closures, research says

A new study says reduced access to HIV services amid early COVID-19 closures in British Columbia was associated with a “sharp increase” in HIV transmission among some drug users. The study by University of British Columbia researchers says that while reduced social interaction from March to May 2020 worked to reduce HIV transmission, that may not have “outweighed” the increase caused by reduced access to services.


After a Program Handed Out Heroin Pipes, Some People Injected Less

New research suggests that handing out a pipe designed specifically as a harm reduction tool for heroin use could encourage people to inject less or switch entirely. The research, published in the Harm Reduction Journal, was a team effort between the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance (PHRA), the Urban Survivors Union (USU), and researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle along with other institutions.


A concept mapping study of service user design of safer supply as an alternative to the illicit drug market

The focused prompt developed by the research team was: “Safe supply would work well if…” Sixty-three drug users participated in three rounds of focus groups as part of the concept mapping process, involving brainstorming, sorting, rating and naming of themes.


The State of Research on Cannabis as an Opioid “Exit Drug”

It was long near-impossible to study cannabis in the United States (and challenging elsewhere). Yet over the past couple of decades, research on the drug has grown. As a result, data pointing to the potential of cannabis or its constituents to reduce opioid-related harms have increased, and—given the way in which such harms increasingly frame research questions—continue to accumulate.



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)