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This article was written by Jessica Soule, a member of the provincial Foundry youth advisory committee (OG-YAC).

Content warning: overdose and death, drug poisoning

Foundry recognizes the ongoing trauma as a result of the drug poisoning crisis, overdose deaths, and prohibition. All of Foundry’s locations, including Foundry Virtual, offer counselling, peer support, and harm reduction services. We are here for you and are ready to meet you where you’re at. 

The COVID-19 pandemic strongly contributed to the furthering of the drug poisoning crisis, also known as the opioid overdose crisis. Over the past five years, there have been over 7,000 overdose deaths in British Columbia. 2020 and 2021 saw an increase in overdose deaths due to border closings and physical isolation. Even as vaccination rates increase and restrictions ease, it is important to test your drugs, use with a buddy (or use the Lifeguard app), and ‘start low and go slow’. 

The contaminated supply of drugs is caused by a disruption in the drug supply chain, making drugs more toxic than usual. Border closings and restrictions are making it harder to get drugs into the province, which means that more synthetic drugs (like fentanyl and carfentanyl) are being produced to meet the need.

In addition to this, physical distancing efforts are also making folks more isolated and more people are using drugs alone. This means that there is no one to administer naloxone if they experience an overdose. Additionally, many harm reduction and support services have closed due to lack of funding or have limited hours, creating barriers to access them.

 

How can you use substances safely during COVID-19 and beyond?

In this context, there are ways to reduce the risk of harm while using substances. Here are a few:

Before using drugs:

  • Try to use in the presence of others, and have naloxone on hand. Try and give everyone personal space, if possible.
  • If you are using alone, get your drugs tested beforehand and go slow to reduce the risk of overdose. If possible, use your drugs at an overdose prevention site.
  • Use new equipment every time. Find a location to get clean supplies in your area.
  • Know that emergency services such as ambulances might have a slower response time because of the virus, so have extra naloxone on hand.
  • Plan ahead in case your drug supply is interrupted: have extra on hand, or try and get access to opioid substitution therapy, if you’re using opioids.

During drug use:

  • Use in the presence of a buddy, someone who is in your “social bubble” would be ideal.
  • Try and use outside, as there is less risk for COVID-19 transmission.
  • Try out the lifeguard app if you are using alone, as it will connect you with emergency response services if you are unresponsive.

After drug use:

  • Sanitize your hands often, especially if you are touching un-sanitized objects or you are with someone else.
  • Monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms (most commonly these are fever, dry cough, and/or tiredness), especially if you were with others, and self-isolate (then contact your local health authority) if you develop any symptoms.

Foundry recognizes the ongoing trauma as a result of the drug poisoning crisis, overdose deaths, and prohibition. All of Foundry’s locations, including Foundry Virtual, offer counselling, peer support, and harm reduction services. We are here for you and are ready to meet you where you’re at.

Resources

There are resources to help if you need support for your mental or physical health, or if you want more information on COVID-19 or safer substance use.

Mental Health and Substance Use Support Services

Substance Use Harm Reduction Resources

TRIPSIT Drug Combination Chart

HereToHelp Safer Use Series

Resources in Other Languages

  1. “Here to Help” Resources in other languages
  2. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Resources in other languages
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