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By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Jesse Stein from The Link wrote about the hard lessons from overdoses (Stein, 2017). Amélie Goyette, who has worked at CACTUS for 13 years (a harm reduction service), described the learned lesson.

The lesson that overdoses inflict themselves upon all sectors of society from the homeless to high-ranking professional people.

CACTUS is organized in Montreal. Some issues with overdoses and drug use in Canada are the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. For example, CACTUS states that 68% of substance users, who intake the substances via injection, have Hepatitis C.

Harm reduction organizations such as CACTUS offer clean needles and are for safe injection, including appropriate support too,

One of the offers from CACTUS from 2010 was the introduction of “Messagers de rue” devoted to hiring people with financial problems in order to provide clean needles as well as clean the areas with substance users.


Saint Laurent metro is the new place for the services. As per usual, it is an area for substance users to inject in a clean context with trained personnel to assist with, for example, the administration of “naloxone in the case of an overdose” (Ibid.).

Two other harm reduction sites have been opened in Montreal in June, 2017.

Naloxone is an important part of harm reduction services because this provides the possibility for reversal of an overdose, which, effectively, saves lives, saves substance users, and abusers, from the potential of immediate death.

“In her experience, Goyette sees that people often begin with prescription opiates like oxycodone,” Stein said, “before moving on to harder drugs like heroin, since doctors prescribe opiates less than they used to. Goyette says that in general, once a person starts injecting heroin, they never go back to pills.”

Fentanyl has been the main killer, recently, as it is a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is 10,000 times more potent than morphine (Ibid.).

In addition to trained personnel, experiential background is an important factor too, as CACTUS hires “peer workers” who are those that have prior experience with heroin abuse.

One barrier in communication and prevention of overdoses is the stigma surrounding drugs in Canada. CACTUS is working to reduce the stigma to more effectively combat the crisis, ongoing.


Stein, J. (2017, November 7). Community Group CACTUS Strives for Harm-Reduction With Newly-Opened Safe Injection Site. Retrieved from

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.