Diversity in Drug Use

In accordance with our commitment to raising awareness about the opioid crisis and reducing stigma around drug use, this free virtual panel event featured four volunteer speakers who shared their experiences working with marginalized communities specializing in opioid use and/or addictions medicine. We learned about why these individuals are often disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis, the specific barriers to safe drug use/access to support services for community members, and how to adapt harm reduction techniques for these unique communities. Starting off with a general overview of the opioid crisis and barriers to treatment, speaker Dr. Vidushi Mittra Melrose, a family physician at the AHS Opioid Dependency Program located downtown Edmonton, with a special interest in youth and addictions began the presentation. Followed by Jyoti Palak, a community pharmacist at Millcreek Medi-Drugs specializing in the 2SLGBTQ+ who discussed addiction, mental health, and barriers to treatment within the community. Then Dr. Pamela Kaduri, an addiction psychiatrist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto with experience working in substance use/mental health in African and Canadian communities spoke about the unique obstacles that the community faces regularly when accessing health services. Finally, Dr. Sajida Afridi, a public health preventative medicine and addiction medicine specialist with experience in Southern Alberta including Indigenous peoples such as First Nations Blood Tribe and inner-city Edmonton, concluded the virtual panel.

Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on People Who Use Substances: What We Heard

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released a study titled “Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on People Who Use Substances: What We Heard” which interviewed 17 informants to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on their lives. It is important to remember this is not an accurate representation of all those with substance use disorders but opens the discussion of the impact of COVID 19. The article focuses on 4 main aspects: 

  1. Physical Distancing and Social Isolation 
  • The loss of social connections/healthcare access, lack of job stability and loss of survival abilities for street involved individuals greatly impacted mental health and wellbeing and introduced suicidal thoughts, trauma and fear. 
  1. Healthcare and Support Systems 
  • The pandemic has highlighted healthcare gaps including lack of PPE, insufficient online support meetings and loss of harm reduction services for those with substance use disorders. 
  1. Health Vulnerabilities
  • Those with substance use disorders are typically more likely to contract/have worsening symptoms from COVID-19. As well, the pandemic has constricted drug supply alongside decreased support which leads to more dangerous street drugs. 
  1. Resilient Responses 
  • Though there has been increased health risks during COVID 19 the healthcare systems have somewhat adapted to the pandemic and improved collaboration and communication. 

There is still much work to be done to decrease health risks for people who use substances during COVID 19 including but not limited to a safe supply of substances/safe injection sites, safe housing, increased PPE and increased COVID 19 testing.

Give the full report a read below and share your opinions/findings with family and friends! https://www.ccsa.ca/impacts-covid-19-pandemic-people-who-use-substances-what-we-heard

Guidelines on How to Stay Safer While Using Drugs During Covid-19

Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, drug overdose-related deaths have been increasing. Alberta Health Services (AHS) has released guidelines on how to reduce the risk of using drugs while people are encouraged to maintain physical distancing measures set by the government and local businesses.

These AHS guidelines are below: 

Read the full guidelines from AHS here: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/hrs/if-hrs-cbn-opioid-poisoning-response-covid19.pdf

Rural Canada Faces its own Opioid Crisis

Although often overlooked, rural and Indigenous communities in Alberta have the highest rates of opioid related emergency department visits per capita. A lack of social and health care agencies, long distances for emergency services to travel, and intergenerational trauma all contribute to the unique overdose crisis facing rural and Indigenous communities.

Link to article: Rural Canada Faces its own Opioid Crisis — The Walrus