Substance Use News November 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: Expanding the response to the toxic drug and overdose crisis

November 1, 2022: The Select Standing Committee on Health was empowered to examine the urgent and ongoing illicit drug toxicity and overdose crisis, and to make recommendations with respect to:
• responding to the crisis with reforms and initiatives by the province and local governments;
• continuing to build an evidence-based continuum of care; and
• expanding access to safer drug supplies, implementing decriminalization, and disrupting illicit toxic drug supplies
The report indicates recommendations within eight key focus areas. View report.


Closing Gaps, Reducing Barriers: Another report for the pile while six people die each day

Four months after opening the consultation portal, the all-party Select Standing Committee on Health released its long-awaited report to the legislature on November 1st, 2022. The result was another disappointment. While not every recommendation is flawed, the report obscures the issue of a poisonous drug supply, and recommends nothing outside of the status quo. The Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Sheila Malcolmson, stated the committee report re-affirmed the BC NDP’s current guiding frameworks – the same framework that currently leads to six deaths per day in the province, and other serious consequences of the emergency.


‘The Report Let Us Down Once Again’

A provincial report on the toxic drug crisis nets an impassioned rebuke from the community it purports to include. Karen Ward, a Downtown Eastside advocate and City of Vancouver drug policy advisor, got the impression the report was a tool to support staying the course. “It’s very clear what they recommend is what they could agree to,” said Ward of the majority-NDP MLA committee. “I look at the ‘what we heard’ versus the recommendations and they’re miles apart.”


Coroners Service News Release November 7, 2022

Toxic drugs claimed the lives of at least 171 British Columbians in September 2022, putting the province on track to surpass 2,000 such deaths for a second consecutive year, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service. Both those who use drugs occasionally and those who are substance-dependent are at risk of sudden death from the unpredictable illicit market. Individuals who have been abstinent for a period of time or those who normally use stimulants are at increased risk. Their opioid tolerance is low and the prevalence of fentanyl in the illicit supply is high.


At least 179 lives lost to toxic drugs in B.C. in October 2022

Coroners Service News Release November 30, 2022: “The recommendations from both the Standing Committee on Health and two BC Coroners Service death review panels are clear: we must create a comprehensive continuum of care that supports people with substance-use disorders, and we must improve access to evidence-based options for treatment and recovery. Most importantly, as those reports recommended, it is imperative that access to safer supply is available in all areas of the province.” – BC Chief Coroner, Lisa Lapointe.


Toxic Drug Crisis Leads to Near-Record October Deaths

New data from the BC Coroners Service puts 2022 nearly on par with BC’s most fatal year for toxic drug deaths. The vast majority of people dying have been men aged 30 to 50. The proportion of people over 50 dying steadily increased to 38 per cent this year. First Nations men and women are up to ten times as likely to die of toxic drug poisonings as their non-Indigenous peers.


New substance-use treatment, recovery services for women coming to Vancouver Island

Women on Vancouver Island will soon have access to more substance-use treatment and recovery services. THe province of BC is opening Coastal Sage Healing House, a new community bed-based treatment service, in Victoria. Coastal Sage Healing House will provide six treatment beds for women and non-binary people with moderate-to-severe substance-use challenges, as well as concurrent social, mental and physical health needs.


Drugs, Death and Denial on the Job

One in three BC construction workers reported problematic substance use. As deaths rise, a response is taking shape.


More overdoses can be prevented with interventions for people leaving correctional centres who use stimulants

New research shows that people with a history of stimulant use disorder face an increased risk of overdose and overdose death following their release from provincial correctional centres, suggesting that connection to services, treatment or other interventions may prevent overdoses.


A Fast Track to Addiction Treatment Is Coming to St. Paul’s

Demand for addictions treatment has ballooned far beyond capacity in recent years. Wait times for referral to withdrawal management and detox spaces for people who want to stop using drugs start around six weeks. Providence estimates the number of visits for mental health and substance use concerns including drug poisonings has increased 70 per cent in the six years since the Rapid Access Addiction Clinic opened.


Advocacy and Education

Philanthropic donor perspectives about providing harm reduction services for people living with HIV/AIDS in a hospital setting

Hospital-based harm reduction services are needed to reduce drug-related harms, facilitate retention in care, and increase medical treatment adherence for people who use drugs. Philanthropic donor support plays a key role in delivering such innovative services which might fall outside current funding streams. However, little is known about how the principles, implementation, and practice of harm reduction services, which are often highly stigmatized, may impact donor behaviours. Researchers explored this issue within Casey House, a speciality hospital in Toronto, Canada.


The Barriers to PrEP Uptake Among People Who Inject Drugs

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs can significantly reduce (about 99%) the risk of getting HIV from sex when taken as prescribed. Mike Barry, a researcher at the University of Washington’s epidemiology department, wanted to better understand why people who inject drugs aren’t accessing PrEP more readily.


Children’s Exposure to Parents’ Relationship Discord or Divorce is Associated with the Potential For Alcohol Use Disorder as Adults

Parents can transmit a genetic risk for alcohol problems to their children not only directly, but also indirectly via genetically influenced aspects of the home environment, such as marital discord or divorce, according to new research. The researchers in this Maerican study used The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism—a large-scale family study designed to identify genes that affect the risk for alcohol use disorder and alcohol-related behaviors—and analyzed data from 4,846 people of European ancestry and 2,005 people of African ancestry who were interviewed when they were approximately age 30.


Difficulty accessing supervised consumption services during the COVID-19 pandemic among people who use drugs in Vancouver, Canada

This study sought to characterize the prevalence and correlates of having difficulty accessing supervised consumption services (SCS) during the COVID-19 pandemic among people who use drugs in Vancouver, Canada.





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

Visit the BC Centre on Substance Use for information on evidence-based approaches to substance use and addiction.

Visit the National Safer Supply Community of Practice (NSS-CoP), whose goal is to scale up safer supply programs across Canada.

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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)