Substance Use News August 2023

Substance Use News provides a monthly collection of news and resources on the social, medical and political responses to the toxic drug supply crisis and information about alcohol harm reduction. Info for People Who Use Substances: get the latest alerts, and tips on how to stay safe from Toward the HeartVisit our Substance Use and Harm Reduction page for more resources. 



In the News

Union of BC Indian Chiefs Stands with Families and Calls for Action on Overdose Awareness Day

(xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh)/ Vancouver, B.C. – August 31, 2023) Today, UBCIC grieves with thousands of families devastated by the overdose crisis and urges municipal, provincial, and federal governments to put aside their lethal political squabbling and take urgent, comprehensive, and coordinated action to save lives and support First Nations self-determination over their health and well-being. Continue reading


International Overdose Awareness Day: Recognizing the Unseen

Although International Overdose Awaremess Day is over, the need for education and community isn’t. Check out Talk Overdose, the organizing our grief collaboration, and the role of families in substance use care podcast.


FNHA Statement on Reporting of First Nations Data About the Toxic Drug Emergency

​On International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug. 31), the CBC published an interactive online story that highlights the tragic loss of life due to the ongoing Toxic Drug Emergency in British Columbia. Although First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) appreciates the efforts of the CBC and other media in bringing to light the importance of humanizing the stories of the toxic drug emergency, as well as the Indigenous contexts, it is equally important to maintain accuracy in reporting.


Overdose Awareness Day and the BC Coroner’s Report

Global BC Medical Contributor Dr. Birinder Narang talks about the latest coroner’s report on overdose deaths in BC and the campaign to recognize the people who go unseen. He also has more on a new study debunking the myth of giving money to the homeless.


BC Minister of Mental Health and Addictions’ Statement on International Overdose Awareness Day

Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, released a statement on International Overdose Awareness Day. It reads in part, “We remember those we have lost, and we acknowledge the ongoing challenges faced by people who use substances and encounter mental-health difficulties. These individuals are all unique human beings who had stories, dreams and hopes, and who were loved by their communities.” Read complete statement.


As Indigenous Youth, We Know Peer Overdose Education Is Vital

Across Canada, many teenagers are experimenting with drugs alone because they don’t feel safe telling others. But when people use alone, they overdose alone. To reduce youth overdose deaths  we need to reduce the stigma that surrounds drug use.


Advocacy and Education

​​Two FNHA Recovery Wellness Champions Share Their Stories

September is Recovery Month Canada, an annual campaign aimed at bringing awareness to supports for addictions. Two First Nations Recovery Wellness Champions share their inspirational stories: Dr. Nel Wieman, Acting Chief Medical Officer; and Liane Lawrence, Administrative Assistant, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer.


Outcomes following incarceration in provincial correctional centres in British Columbia: Findings from the BC Provincial Overdose Cohort

The Provincial Mental Health and Substance Use Learning Rounds aim to support staff, service providers, researchers and partners to better understand and address issues related to improving care for people with mental health and substance use needs.


Opioid agonist therapy and mortality among First Nations and other residents with concurrent alcohol use disorder in British Columbia, Canada: A population-based cohort study

Despite the prevalence of alcohol use among people with opioid use disorder (PWOUD) engaged in opioid agonist therapy (OAT), clinical care guidance for concurrent alcohol use disorder (AUD) and OUD is scarce. We assessed the prevalence and risk of mortality for concurrent AUD among PWOUD who accessed OAT in British Columbia (BC).


All About Drug Checking: The People Behind the Machines

In a job that’s part outreach, part technical, drug checking technicians play a pivotal role in community harm reduction. Community drug checking services started being offered in 2017 in response to the ongoing toxic drug crisis. Many community drug checking services in BC use a Fourier-transform infrared spectrometer in combination with fentanyl and benzodiazepine test strips, which technicians are trained to interpret. The results give people potentially life-saving information about what’s in their drugs.


Identifying barriers and facilitators to COVID-19 vaccination uptake among People Who Use Drugs in Canada: a National Qualitative Study

People Who Use Drugs (PWUD) have lower vaccination uptake than the general population, and disproportionately experience the burden of harms from vaccine-preventable diseases. We conducted a national qualitative study to: (1) identify the barriers and facilitators to receiving COVID-19 vaccinations among PWUD; and (2) identify interventions to support PWUD in their decision-making.



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 care and harm reduction.

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

Visit the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research site for research on aclohol and substance use.

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


Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)