This article was written by Jessica Soule, a member of the provincial Foundry youth advisory committee (OG-YAC).
The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread impacts, but one of the most distinct ones is its impact on the ongoing overdose crisis.
This summer there have been record high numbers of overdose deaths in British Columbia.
According to Judy Darcy, BC’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the rise in overdoses is caused by disruptions in the drug supply chain. This disruption is making drugs more toxic than usual. Border closings, for instance, are making it harder to get drug into the province, which means that more synthetic drugs (like fentanyl) 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 are closed or have limited hours, creating barriers to access them.
This article, developed in collaboration with Foundry clinicians and doctors, will help you navigate using substances more safely during COVID-19. There are also a list of resources and crisis lines at the end of the article.
Do your best depending on your situation, but always remember that Foundry is here to help if you need it.
What is COVID-19 and how does it spread?
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that spreads through little respiratory droplets, close personal contact (hugging, shaking hands, etc), and through germs on un-cleaned surfaces.
Physical distancing has been cited as the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. This means avoiding large crowds, keeping a two-meter distance from others, and wearing a mask when it’s impossible to distance yourself from others.
How can you use substances safely during COVID-19?
In this context, there are things you can do to use substances more safely. Here are a few.
Before using drugs:
- Try to use in the presence of others, and have naloxone on hand. Try and keep a 2-meter (6 ft.) distance between everyone, if possible.
- If you are using alone, get your drugs tested beforehand and go slow to reduce the risk of overdose.
- Make sure that surfaces have been wiped down with an alcohol-based disinfectant, and that those preparing the drugs have washed their hands.
- If possible, 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 that you live with or 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.
Many youth have been sharing that affirmations are helpful to them get through the day. Here is a random affirmation generator site.
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.
Resources in Other Languages
Find out more about Foundry.