CCSA Hosts 7th Harm Reduction Conference

CCSA Hosts 7th Harm Reduction Conference

One of the largest harm reduction conferences is being held, recently. It was in Calgary, Alberta. This is the seventh conference devoted to issues and concerns around substance use and addiction. It is being hosted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA).

It is bringing numerous prominent individuals within the relevant fields together for the conference. This included “addiction workers, healthcare professionals, researchers, policymakers, knowledge brokers, and those with lived and living experience from across the country to address the harms of substance use and addiction.”

The main topic area or the thematic orientation of the conference was “Addiction Matters.” It is a three-day conference. The conference is sold out as well. It will have an attendance of 480 people. The presentations and workshops will look at prescription drugs as well as the opioid crisis involving fentanyl.

The Federal Minister of Health Ginette Taylor and the Alberta Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne will be coming to the conference for 2017. They will be giving short speeches on the first day. The conference is actually parallelling national addictions awareness week, which price to enlighten about substance use an addiction. That is, the stigma surrounding them.

Executive Director of the CCSA, Rita Notarandrea, said, “Addiction and problematic substance use touches us all…This conference brings together representatives of a fragmented, but passionate system of services and supports dedicated to helping the six million Canadians — our mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers, neighbours and friends — touched by this health disorder.”


Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. (2017, November 13). Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction Hosts Canada’s Largest National Conference on Prevention, Harm Reduction, Treatment and Recovery. Retrieved from

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen


Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail:

Homeless, in Winnipeg, and Indigenous Populations, in Canada, at Higher Risk of Substance Associated Deaths

Homeless, in Winnipeg, and Indigenous Populations, in Canada, at Higher Risk of Substance Associated Deaths

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Harm reduction is an important part of the prevention of deaths associated with drug use, overuse or abuse. In Winnipeg, the vulnerable are the main victims of the opioid crisis. Throughout the country, the most vulnerable are the main victims.
The homeless and the indigenous population within Canada are the typical individuals who you will see dying daily. Various nonprofits, according to Elisha Dacey, are in a panic and rush to be able to cope and deal with the deaths associated with opioid overdoses sourced in substances laced with fentanyl.
The homeless in Winnipeg are the main subjects of death. They need housing. Local advocates for the homeless say this. But they aren’t getting it. So, the homeless are the ones dying daily, as per usual.
Various business owners in West Broadway are frustrated about a homeless camp that sprung up in Winnipeg. The business owners see this area of Winnipeg as profitable, and the homeless as a nuisance to the potential for profit because it is a lucrative area for the business owners.
There can be bike thefts and petty crime in the area. This has been a concern for the Winnipeg Police Service as well as the mayor of Winnipeg too. Many have been saying that the drug use and abuse issues have been getting worse over time.
When it comes to looking for housing solutions for the homeless population, there is tremendous resistance to it. Much of the discussion is looking for ways to have the various public and private businesses and organizations come together within the communities of Manitoba, in particular, to be able to solve the increasing problem of homelessness as well as overdoses associated highly with the homeless population.
In Canada as a whole, a large portion of the homeless population is also indigenous. This is also a major concern. In fact, for me, it is a tremendous concern. Not only in the presence of historical crimes, but also in immediate experience and sympathy for the broken communities and hearts now.
As noted by others, this is the time of reconciliation, so most hope. Indigenous youth who take drugs in British Columbia, for example, will be 13 times more likely to die than any other same age group.
This means both women and men are at a much higher risk of death due to overdose and drug use than every other population, the non-aboriginal population. Many are trying to break the cycle.
But it is a hard struggle. Not only because of their ongoing deaths, but also the ease of access to drugs can be an issue too. Many want to get over the abuse and trauma from the past. However, many do not have appropriate public services.


Bellrichard, C. (2012, November 6). Indigenous youth who use drugs in B.C. dying at an alarming rate, study finds. Retrieved from
Dacey, E. (2017, November 12). ‘Survival economy’: Winnipeg’s homeless struggling amid opioid crisis, lack of housing, say advocates. Retrieved from
Fentanyl Positive Sample Tests Increase 2,000%

Fentanyl Positive Sample Tests Increase 2,000%

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

There has been a surprising increase in the number of positive tests for fentanyl in samples of heroin, which have been seized by the law enforcement agencies throughout the country. It was less than 1% in 2012, moving to about 60% or more in 2017.

In other words, there has been a two thousand percent increase in the percentage. For all street drug samples, it is not a small sample size. The samples tested are about 120,000 in number. Health Canada has not provided an in-depth breakdown of the details for every type of drug test.

However, they have noted that heroin is a particular area of concern.

Of the 2337 heroin samples tested by the drug analysis service of Health Canada, less than 1% had fentanyl or any of its analogs, such as Carfentanil.

That grew to 39.4% out of 3658 samples. In only the first nine months of 2017, of the samples tested, totaling 3,337, the total testing positive for Fentanyl has “jumped” to 60.1%.

It is a substantial increase in the percentage of fentanyl that is part of the samples tested. Other common drugs tested by the service are marijuana, cocaine, oxycodone, MDMA, and many others. It was not found in any marijuana samples, but there have been increases found, of Fentanyl, in cocaine and methamphetamine.

This rapid increase in fentanyl contained within street drugs is a marked concern for the general public as well as Health Canada. Dr. David Juurlink, the head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, found that this was not shocking for him.

This is, simply according to Juurlink, a mirror of the opioid crisis overdose deaths. They are paralleling the increase of positive fentanyl drug test samples. In 2016 alone, Health Canada reports that 2,816 people died from opioid-related causes.

Juurlink says that some of the factors associated with the rapid increase of fentanyl use is due to a general over-prescription of opioids for the reduction of pain. Money is being made by preying on people who need help. This is the opinion of Juurlink.


Miller, A. (2017, November 9). EXCLUSIVE 2,000% rise in street drug samples testing positive for fentanyl. Retrieved from

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

Abuse of Opioids Does Not Discriminate

Abuse of Opioids Does Not Discriminate

Image Credit: Flickr.

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.

New Device to be Piloted in British Columbia

New Device to be Piloted in British Columbia

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

In the midst of the opioid crisis in British Columbia, and arguably across Canada, Vancouver is testing a first-of-its-kind drug examination device.

The drug testing device may help in the reduction of opioid associated overdoses and deaths.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and the British Columbia Addictions Minister Judy Darcy made an announcement about the machine.

This pilot for the device will be through Insite and Powell Street Gateway. It is called the Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR).

The new device has the ability to have individual submit anonymous samples of street substances in order to be tested for potential opioid content.

You can also test for stimulants, MDMA, and other drugs. These substances can be today found within minutes. Also, all supervised injection sites within British Columbia will now have Fentanyl test strips, according to Darcy.

She said, “Tackling this overdose crisis takes a whole province … it will take an entire province to turn this around.”

In the province, so far, more than 1,100 people have died based on illicit substance use overdoses.

In September alone, there have been 80 suspected elicit overdose deaths, which is up more than 30% from September in 2016.

Also, the ministry is beginning to ramp up the campaign to reduce stigma. More than nine out of 10 people who are dying from overdoses are using substances while at home, alone.


CBC News. (2017, November 10). Drug testing machine to be piloted in Vancouver as overdose crisis continues. Retrieved from

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

Red Zones Block Harm Reduction Service Access

Red Zones Block Harm Reduction Service Access

Image Credit: Pexels.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Henry Tran, a Contributor to Simon Fraser University’s The Peak, reported that a new study found the bail conditions on alleged offenders including substance users can prevent overall access in Downtown Eastside Vancouver to harm reduction services (2017).

Professor Nicholas Blomley from Simon Fraser University and a master’s student, William Damon, published the study that said the “red zone” or the “no-go” bail conditions can prevent access to those services.

Based on the reportage from the study, “more than half of the bail conditions for drug offences included a no-go zone, 92 per cent of which were concentrated in the Downtown Eastside.” This is stated, by Tran, to have implications for the well-being and health of substance users in Vancouver.

The red zone blocks access to harm reduction services including overdose prevention and safe injection sites.

The lead researcher in the study, Marie-Eve Sylvestre, said, “Our study reveals that conditions of release are too frequently used in Vancouver in ways that are counterproductive, punitive, and frankly unlawful, threatening fundamental constitutional rights.”

Purported drug use offenders can be susceptible to recidivism, so they can go back into the criminal justice system. “Between 2005 and 2012, 97 per cent of all bail orders in Vancouver included conditions of release,” Tran stated, “which contradicts the Criminal Code requirement of unconditional release, the study outlined.”

The current system, with bail, would violate the right of the individual and others including their security, according to Blomley.

The Government of British Columbia has no address these problems within the criminal justice system.


Tran, H. (2017, November 8). Study finds bail ‘no-go’ zones block access to harm-reduction services. Retrieved from

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

The Public Have Concerns About Discarded Needles

The Public Have Concerns About Discarded Needles

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Harm reduction continues to grow throughout Canada. With this, there is the provision of Naloxone kits, harm reduction trailers and sites, as well as clean needles for injection drug users. But there have been some reactions from the public on the government to clean up problems with drug use waste, especially intravenous drug user waste such as needles and syringes. There are discarded syringes, which some see as posing a health risk to the general public.

There have been volunteers in parks. They have been tasked with cleaning up various paraphernalia of drugs. Some suggest needle exchange programs are part of the problem with the waste. However, the experts and the public health workers such as social workers and nurses, and researchers, on the ground state that those programs are in fact part of the solution.

There have been rubber gloves and garbage bags put out by volunteers in Ontario and New Brunswick. Some citizens have been taking pictures of needles in some of their local areas and posting them on social media, for public commentary and complaint.

Vancouver Coast Health, as a public agency, is providing needle exchange is as well as safe injection sites for drug users who inject.

That agency provides healthcare for about 1/4 of the British Colombia population. Even though they have been more needles discarded, there has been a “dramatic decline in HIV cases” among the British Colombia drug user population. Those that inject.

Professor Carol Strike from the University of Toronto said, “I’d be concerned if I found a needle in my community, and if I didn’t know a lot about the programs I might make assumptions about where the needle came from and how many there are … the programs that I’ve worked with across the country … don’t want needles in the community either. That’s why they exist, not only to give out needles, but to dispose of them properly,”
This is part of an ongoing public conversation.


Goffin, P. (2017, November 7). Residents raise concerns about discarded needles, public health workers say harm reduction programs part of solution. Retrieved from

Harm Reduction Trailer Approved for Murray Street

Harm Reduction Trailer Approved for Murray Street

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Health Canada approved the supervised injection site in Ottawa, recently. CBC News reported that the trailer was approved for the Shepherd’s of Hope in Byward Market (Trinh, 2017).

This nearly another unsupervised injection site at Raphael Brunet Park. The Government of Canada published a press release on the importance of harm reduction measures such as supervised injection sites.

Volunteers in Ottawa have said that this supervised injection site is in the centre of the opioid crisis in Ottawa.

The trailer is open 24/7 and stocked with clean needles and naloxone kits. At the moment, the trailer is used for the injections but in the future could be used for drugs users who smoke their substance.

The federal government in a press release said, ‘Supervised consumption sites are an important harm reduction measure and part of the Government of Canada’s comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate and evidence-based approach to drug policy,”

There are a total of eight injection stalls within the trailer for clean drug use by users. The press release continued, “International and Canadian evidence shows that, when properly established and maintained, supervised consumption sites save lives and improve health without increasing drug use or crime in the surrounding area.”

The harm reduction trailer is at the corner of Murray Street and King Edward Avenue.  There were 10 overdoses within 24 hours in Ottawa in this part of the city.

The Inner City Health of Ottawa is the government arm responsible and equipped for the “training and hiring the nurses and social workers who will staff the injection trailer.”

For governmental permission for illicit substances with the trailer, the executive director for the group, Wendy Muckle, said, “We had to show what measures we would take to prevent the trafficking of illicit drugs inside the trailer … and how we would make sure clients were safe and secure and staff were safe and secure.” It is a 24/7 trailer.

Inside of the trailer, there have been 50 nurses and social workers hired and trained in the possibility of an overdose, as well the trailer has clean needles and naloxone kits on site.


Trinh, J. (2017, November 6). Health Canada approves supervised injection trailer at Ottawa shelter. Retrieved from

Harm Reduction Tent No Longer Usable in Moss Park

Harm Reduction Tent No Longer Usable in Moss Park

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

A, technically, illegal overdose prevention site in the Moss Park of Toronto halted use of a its heated medical tent (Giovannetti, 2017). The heated medical tent was provided by the provincial government, or the Government of Ontario, but the officials on behalf of the government said that there should be no open flames inside of the harm reduction structure.

The Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Eric Hoskin, for Ontario said, last week, that there will be an increase in the provision of resources for dealing with the opioid crisis through the installation of a “military-style tent” (Ibid.).

With windy and cold weather, the warmed harm reduction structure was a refuge for activists and drug users alike. But the commander of the Emergency Medical Assistance Team, or EMAT, of Ontario sent a message to the activists in Moss Park that no flames should be used in the tent. Even though, drugs need heat to be consumed.

The lead organizer of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance, Zoe Dodd, said the medical tent had to be abandoned. Now, the activists and users are based to using old tents without insulation.

Dodd said, “I don’t know if they just don’t understand how drugs are prepared. You have to heat up a drug to break down bacteria and the drug itself. I just don’t understand how this happened.”

Hoskin’s office said that oxygen tanks are stored in the tanks in order to assist with resuscitation if needed at any time, but there is a risk with the possibilities of an open flame.

Laura Gallant, who is a spokesperson for the office of Hoskin, said, that there has a lack of communication between activists and the government since the opening of the site in August.

Gallant said the government is looking to provide industrial grade appliances such as hot plates, which would be safe for a tent. But Dodd rejected the proposal because “people do not use got plates to heat up their drugs.”

Dodd’s volunteers, to date, have apparently reversed 85 overdoses and monitored 2,000 injections.

In the nearly three months the site has been operating, volunteers have reversed 85 overdoses and monitored almost 2,000 injections.

More in the reference.


Giovannetti, J. (2017, November 5). Open-flame ban forces Toronto drug-use site to abandon heated medical tent. Retrieved from

Overdoses in Abbotsford

Overdoses in Abbotsford

Image Credit: Pixabay.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Canadian citizens have been losing family members, friends, colleagues, and fellow Canadians to the ongoing opioid crisis (CBC Radio, 2017).

A guest on As It Happens, Jolene Greyeyes, said that she has lost over 100 friends due to the crisis (CBC Radio, 2017). Greyeyes is a former addict and harm reduction worker. She may have lost more more with five more people dying in Abbotsford, British Columbia (Schmunk, 2017). All within the span of nine hours.

Greyeyes said, “And if I don’t, I know other people that most likely will know them…It’s just a never-ending cycle.” Of the five victims to the crisis in Abbotsford, there were two women and three men.

“It’s another five families impacted by this crisis happening in our city,” Greyeyes said. They ranged in age from 40 to 67; each dying alone. Police are working to find out if the contribution to the deaths was from carfentanil or fentanyl.

The toxicological tests have yet to come back. Between the first and the eighth month of 2017, 1,013 Canadian citizens died from illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia alone, which is according to the British Columbia Coroners Service (CBC News, 2017). It is 91 more deaths than in 2016.

Greyeyes spoke to the need for further education on overdose signs as well as naloxone training. “They have to know the signs of an overdose and they have to have naloxone training and naloxone kits on hand and [know] not to use alone.” she said, “Nobody’s safe out there anymore.”

“We need to really educate the public, even if they don’t think that addiction is something they need to know about, because it’s happening in communities right across British Columbia and it’s not just isolated to people who are homeless or living on the streets. It’s people from all walks of life who are being impacted.”

She iterated that she, personally, would never give up on someone that struggles with an addiction in her own community because she was an addict and knows the pain that these people go through, especially hose losing a loved one.


CBC News. (2017, October 12). B.C. overdose deaths now surpass 2016 total, coroner says. Retrieved from

CBC Radio. (2017, October 30). After 5 overdose deaths in 9 hours, B.C. harm-reduction worker says ‘nobody’s safe’. Retrieved from

Schmunk, R. (2017, October 28). 5 people die of overdoses in Abbotsford within 9 hours on Friday. Retrieved from

Ottawa Vending Machines, Success Plus Concern

Ottawa Vending Machines, Success Plus Concern

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Ottawa’s program for harm reduction, which is a pilot, for needle and pipe vending machines as well as safe injection sites has been a success while make one resident feel unsafe in the neighbourhood now.

There have been more than 250 stems for drug smoking and 600 needles dispensed since the middle of September, according to Ottawa Public Health.

The point for the program was to reduce the number of infectious diseases spread including Hepatitis C and HIV  (CTV News, 2017). The infectious diseases can be spread through drug users’ needle and pipe exchanges with one another.

Ottawa Public Health’s communications, Donna Casey, said that the feedback from the ‘clients’ or the clientele was positive. The clients said that the access to the supplies is there when other potential providers are closed.

This is apparently during the night, according to John Becvar who is a harm reduction outreach worker. The most popular harm reduction vending machine is the one in Byward Market by the Ottawa Public Health’s Clarence Street facility.

Laura MacDonald, who is a long time resident of the community, is in support of the harm reduction movement, but finds the new drug users make the community less safe than before. It is a concern to her.

People have used drugs, at her doorstep. MacDonald said, “There’s more people who are dealing drugs. There’s more prostitution. There’s more … things you wouldn’t see on a regular basis, but they’re happening on a daily basis.”

In 2016, Public Health Ontario reported that there were 40 opioid-related deaths in Ottawa (2017).


CTV News. (2017, October 29).  Ottawa needle-vending machines called a success, but resident says area’s now unsafe. Retrieved from

Public Health Ontario. (2017, September 19). Opioid-related morbidity and mortality in Ontario. Retrieved from

Regina Harm Reduction Advocates Call for Safe Injection Sites

Regina Harm Reduction Advocates Call for Safe Injection Sites

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Harm reduction advocates are looking to have safe injection sites in Regina (Knox, 2017). Many of them or make-shift in places such as homes and alleyways. Saskatchewan, as a province in Canada, has the highest per capita opioid overdose hospitalization rate.

The argument from the group making the calls is that the safe injection sites provide a space that is stigma free. Some have praised the efforts but state more data is needed on them.

In other words, it is a statement about the praiseworthy or laudable nature of the safe injection sites that are popping up in houses and alleyways because they help and afflicted minority population, such as youths or addicts

But the evidence is not necessarily in in terms of the benefits of pop up safe injection sites as opposed to stable ones.

Executive Director for Carmichael Outreach, Cora Gajari, said, “I really applaud the efforts of the people who set up in front of city hall. In terms of safe injection sites, though, I don’t know that we really have enough evidence to prove that we need them here in Regina.” (Ibid.)

“There’s always this tendency to be reactive and see what others are doing, bide our time. I think perhaps it’s the place of Regina to be a leader in the province to get something like this started,” Councillor Andrew Stevens said (CBC News, 2017).

The President and Co-Founder of the White Pony Lodge, Shawna Oochoo, estimates between 80 and 100 needles are picked up by volunteers per month by the White Pony Lodge.

Stevens continued, “I can’t just see us sitting around and waiting, I think we need to get ahead of this.”

In the past, in 2016, the freezes on harm reduction efforts have coincided – though correlation is not causation – with an increase of HIV rates (Fraser, 2016).


CBC News. (2017, October 9). Time to talk about supervised injection sites in Regina, councillor says. Retrieved from

Fraser, D.C. (2016, June 16). Sask. HIV rate goes up as harm-reduction expansion remains on hold. Retrieved from

Knox, J. (2017, October 9). Harm-reduction advocates call for safe injection sites in Regina. Retrieved from

Toronto Board of Health Considering New Measures

Toronto Board of Health Considering New Measures

​By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

The Toronto Board of Health is considering a set of measures in order to push back against the crisis of overdoses. There was a plea from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for immediate declaration of a health emergency in the public.

There has been a huge spike in overdoses and deaths related to opioids across the country, as well as Ontario. The Board of Health for Toronto met after a report was published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Five people were hospitalized every day between April, 2016, and March, 2017. Toronto had the highest opioid-related hospitalizations in the province. More than a year ago, British Columbia made a public declaration of a health emergency in the province.

Councillor Joe Cressy, Chair of the city’s Drug Strategy Implementation Panel, said, “If the province declares it an emergency, as a result of that, dollars can flow quickly to the people who need it and the organizations that are responding.”

There was collection of real-time data about overdoses. This is to identify areas of risk. Of course, unfortunately, the data comes with the assumption of deaths or overdoses. There was an open letter to the government of Ontario.

Harm reduction advocate, Zoe Dodd, said, “The province said to us when we asked for it few weeks ago that there was no end in sight, that they weren’t going to call [an emergency]. But that is exactly why you call a public health emergency, because there needs to be an end in sight.”

Subsequently, $222 million in funding is being provided for the next 2 1/2 years for the hiring of front-line harm-reduction workers. This is also in order to create addiction clinics with quick access as well as the supplies of Naloxone, which can help with the prevention of overdoses.

FDA Considering New Enforcement With Implicit Focus on Harm Reduction

FDA Considering New Enforcement With Implicit Focus on Harm Reduction

​By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

According to the CSP Magazine’s Angel Abcede, the FDA is considering new enforcement policy, which would include harm reduction policy. One aspect of the policy is geared around nicotine addiction as one core strategy. The research will focus on electronic cigarettes as an alternative to combustible cigarettes

Many have been curious as to the new US FDA position and strategy with President Trump’s new administration. Gottlieb’s document provided some insight.

The new Commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, issued a document on nicotine addiction and breaking it:

“Our approach to nicotine must be accompanied by a firm foundation of rules and standards for newly regulated products. To be successful, all of these steps must be done in concert and not in isolation.”

He argued for more research and public discussion with combustible and electronic cigarettes (as an alternative to combustible cigarettes, for example). The other option to combustible cigarettes was to argue for an engineering of the low-nicotine options of cigarettes, not simply e-cigarettes. This is to reduce the probability of youths becoming involved in addictions to cigarettes.

In response to this need, the FDA has, in the past, extended deadlines for new-product applications – for several years, apparently. There is a pronounced crisis in addiction that threatens American families.

As noted by Gottlieb, “Envisioning a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction, and where adults who still need or want nicotine could get it from alternative and less-harmful sources, needs to be the cornerstone of our efforts.

This is of concern to the FDA generally. The focus on nicotine levels was found to be among the most unexpected announcements. In accordance with this, there will be the issuance of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for input on pluses and minuses for the introductive of lower-level cigarettes.

There will be public-commentary on lower-nicotine cigarettes as well as public-commentary on the dangers around various alternatives such as e-cigarette batteries, e-liquids for youths, and the potential for traditional cigarettes to be more harmful than easy e-cigarettes.

“A key piece of the FDA’s approach is demonstrating a greater awareness that nicotine—while highly addictive—is delivered through products that represent a continuum of risk and is most harmful when delivered through smoke particles in combustible cigarettes,” Gottlieb said.

Groups with traditional anti-tobacco stances, such as Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids in Washington, D.C., agreed with as well as having healthy scepticism against comments made by Gottlieb. These conversations incorporate harm reduction philosophy in a high-level organization with potential for positive impacts on the lives of North Americans.

​Nikki Sullivan, of the Cape Breton​ ​Post, on Harm Reduction

​Nikki Sullivan, of the Cape Breton​ ​Post, on Harm Reduction

​By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Nikki Sullivan, of the Cape Breton​ ​Post, reported on harm reduction. She described this as something possibly confusing for those were not more familiar with the philosophy, methodology, and the practice. It was a way to help people with substance abuse disorders. Part of it can include absence. Another part of it can include the reduction of the potential harm to people who happen to use substances, or drugs more colloquially.

The main aim is to reduce the harms associated over the long term with substance misuse, or abuse. Where the focus is the individual user, the problems boil down to the individual but incorporate community and societal consequences.

So, the reduction in overall harm of the individual can boil down to an overall reduction in harm to the community and society. There are many strategies. There is a tremendous amount of empirical support for this, according to the experts, and the Canadian Medical Association has intervened in the past to support harm reduction. The principles include, with a focus on the individual, the dignity of the individual.

The dignity and respect for their own choices plus helping with the reduction of harm. It is a realistic view incorporated into society, with the idea that drugs cannot be eliminated but their negative effects can be reduced.

There could be things like safe needle distribution sites and consumption sites, as well as therapy and treatment, and Naloxone programs that you can take home. Naloxone can help prevent overdoses of particular substances, which is important in the current context of the opioid overdose “epidemic” in British Columbia, Ontario, and elsewhere in the country.

Harm Reduction is a non-judgmental approach and less punitive one, too, to the traditional hard drug enforcement model. The traditional approach is mostly punitive, which, according to the evidence and experts, has contributed to an increase in the amount of drug use and abuse and, therefore, cost of the individual to the community and society.

Take, for example, the introduction of harm reduction to improve the lives of users. It has been proven to reduce the case of hepatitis C, HIV, and the levels of a drug overdose. In the words, it is effective in important domains for the health of citizens who have used drugs or substances. This is in stark contrast to the punitive approach. If you go punitive, the drug use and abuse go up; if you use harm reduction, the drug use goes down and abuse goes down.

Ottawa’s Move for Harm Reduction via Vending Machines

Ottawa’s Move for Harm Reduction via Vending Machines

It has been reported that Ottawa has installed new machines. The vending machines are for needles and crack pipes. These are sterile devices for use to reduce the probability of non-sterile ones being used. This is intended to reduce the number of infections related to drug use.

Harm reduction dispensing unit outside Somerset West Community Health Centre (Source: Somerset West Community Health Centre)

The new machines are located at the Ottawa Public Health centers, who offer safe needle exchanges now.
The kits will contain a tie, three syringes, and alcohol swabs. The machines will make 24/7 service a reality for the community, for access to the needles, pipes, and so on.
Why these services 24/7 through vending machines in Ottawa? The main intention comes from the reduction of Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.


The users of the vending machines will need tokens, which can be acquired through the center’s staff. It is important to note that this is not a full-scale initiative at the present time because these cost $20,000 to $25,000. Las Vegas and Vancouver are hosts to similar programs of action.

The empirical support is in favor of harm reduction. So, the move towards the vending machines for around-the-clock services devoted to its movement will reduce the number of infectious diseases in the addict community, which would have otherwise been higher without the harm reduction philosophy in practice.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen


Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail:

Youth and International Overdose Awareness Day

Youth and International Overdose Awareness Day

Thousands of Canadians needlessly die of drug overdose every year, and every year, the number grows. From 2000 to 2010, prescription opioid usage in Canada grew more than 200%. In 2002, the Health Officers’ Council of BC reported that there were 958 overdose deaths in Canada. In 2016, an estimated 2,458 Canadians died of opioid overdoses. This year, British Columbia alone is likely to have more than 1,400 overdose deaths, while in Ontario, two people die of opioid overdoses every day. Canadians are the second largest consumer of prescription opioids, second only to our neighbours, the United States. And without awareness and appropriate harm reduction, the overdose crisis will be magnified year after year.

Raising Awareness and Remembering

International Overdose Awareness Day was born on August 31st, 2001 – a day dedicated to commemorating friends, family and partners that have been lost to overdose. By honouring those lost to drug-related deaths, we share our stories and can create a community of support that will help improve the lives of people who use drugs. Anybody can help raise awareness by participating in any of the 48 International Overdose Awareness Day events across Canada. Some of our board members will be attending events in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario (find them on our facebook page).

Today, we should also reflect why students and youth should care about sensible drug policy, and how we can make a difference in our communities.

Barriers to Harm Reduction for Young People

Last year in BC, 1 in 5 people who were lost to overdose were under the age of 30. Youth encounter many opportunities to engage in substance use. Fentanyl has been found in certain non-opioid drugs that are often used in social settings (e.g. cocaine), which presents a risk to young people who may use these drugs without knowledge of their composition and without having built up a tolerance to opioids.

While important life-saving interventions like naloxone have been made more widely available in recent years, youth may experience barriers to accessing these services. They may not know about naloxone or where to get it, or they may not want to access it for fear of being stigmatized for their drug use. This has been reported at some campuses, where, in order to get a naloxone kit and training, a student needs to identify as an illicit drug user. Understandably, students might fear academic or other repercussions if they admit to campus administration that they use drugs.

Truly Protecting the Youth  

CSSDP has been working with our chapters on naloxone training for students and youth in different cities across Canada. UBC Okanagan chapter held weekly drop-in sessions on campus during the Spring; CSSDP Vancouver recently held a similar session for students in the city.

We are encouraging our chapters to work with their campus administration to ensure that Good Samaritan policies are enacted on campus. (Note: Canada has Good Samaritan policies around calling 9-1-1 for overdoses, but each campus might approach the issue differently with respect to academic consequences.)

We are currently working on a project to map harm reduction service locations in different cities across the country. For now, you can find a list of where you can obtain naloxone for free in Ontario, participate in British Columbia’s Toward the Heart take home naloxone program, at certain locations in Quebec, as well as several other provinces and territories. Another related awareness map is Celebrating Lost Loved Ones, an online memorial of more than 1000 stories of loved ones lost to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Public Health and Human Rights First

Many people use drugs for many different reasons. Criminalizing people for their drug use only serves to further stigmatize and marginalize people, which can lead to additional social harms, especially for those already self-medicating or suffering from physical or mental health issues. We can no longer ignore that our current approach to drugs (i.e. drug prohibition) has failed to achieve its goal of preventing drug use. Right now, we are dealing with an opioid crisis that has been made far worse by a contaminated drug supply.

As long as we continue with drug prohibition, we will continue to see a toxic drug supply. While we are happy that the government has begun taking steps away from drug prohibition by developing framework for regulating cannabis, we think it’s time to consider alternative approaches to prohibition for all illicit drugs.

As we stand with thousands upon thousands of people worldwide that are affected by countless preventable overdose deaths each year, we are reminded why we advocate every day for evidence-based drug policies that improve the lives of people who use drugs in Canada.

We encourage you to attend an overdose awareness day event near you! Join us in our efforts to raise awareness, promote harm reduction and change ineffective Canadian laws with a more sensible, evidence-based approach to drug policy by attending a local chapter meeting or starting a CSSDP chapter on your campus!

Stephanie Lake

Stephanie Lake

Stephanie is a doctoral student in population and public health at the University of British Columbia, where she is currently undertaking research to better understand the links between cannabis, opioids, and drug-related morbidity.
Read more.

With or without the blessing

With or without the blessing

Harm reduction workers celebrating their temporary agreement with local law enforcement for the opening of the pop-up safe injection site at Moss Park in Toronto. (John Lesavage/CBC)

Toronto opened the 1st pop-up safe injection site.

The city of Toronto has not ‘blessed’ the project. However, activists for the site are excited about it, and “hope authorities won’t shut them down” (Nasser, 2017).

For one of the underserved sectors of the Toronto community, the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance will open on Saturday. Harm reduction workers and activists, and advocates, have been making calls for something like this for some time (Rieti, 2017).

Three people have died, recently, due to overdoses (Glover, 2017). This is seen as a wakeup call by many (The Canadian Press, 2017). With these deaths, and with the ongoing protestations of harm reduction activists, they are taking these issues on for the community on their own. These are unregulated pop-up safe injection sites. The exact site, was not given by harm reduction worker matt Johnson in conversation with CBC News, to protect users and organizers (Nasser, 2017).

Johnson said, “We just can’t wait any longer.… With this many deaths we just can’t afford to.” The advocates for harm reduction consider the harm reduction sites sanctioned, or ‘blessed,’ by the city of Toronto. Advocates for harm reduction have been making calls for the declaration of a public health emergency alongside immediate funding for the 24-hour care for substance users.

Many have praised the city sites. However, these are considered insufficient by the harm reduction advocates. “They were opened to deal with the overdose problem that we had — not the increase that we’re dealing with. So they can’t handle the overflow that we’re seeing now,” Johnson said, citing a rash of drug overdose deaths in the past month that prompted police to issue a public alert.”

Mayor John Tory met with John and other harm reduction advocates for reassurance that the city’s staff and police will not attempt to take down the pop-up harm reduction site and would permit the harm reduction group to stay there.

The assurance was not given to the activists. Chair of the board of health, Joe Mihevc, told CBC News that the city of Toronto has been working to develop more city-sanctioned sites, but that this takes time. Harm reduction activists appear to have been opening up these in the light of the delays.



Glover, C. (2017, August 11). 3 dead in Durham region from drug overdoses, fentanyl suspected. Retrieved from

Nasser, S. (2017, August 11). Toronto’s 1st pop-up safe-injection site set to open without city’s blessing. Retrieved from

Rieti, J. (2017, August 11). Toronto harm reduction advocates pushing for pop-up safe-injection sites. Retrieved from

The Canadian Press. (2017, July 31). Spate of drug overdoses in Toronto wakeup call, experts say. Retrieved from  




Vancouver Island Opening Consumption Site

Vancouver Island Opening Consumption Site

It has been reported by CTV Vancouver Island that there is an exemption granted to the Vancouver Island Health Authority for the operation of Victoria’s first supervised consumption site.

An injection kit is shown at Insite, a safe injection facility in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)


The site will open on 941 Pandora Ave. It has been named the Pandora Community Health and Wellness Centre. The centre will offer integrated health services in addition to addiction treatment programs, a nursing clinic, and mental health counselling.

The projected time for its opening is between the spring or summer of 2018. As the Pandora Community Health and Wellness Centre becomes functional and goes online, the site will provide the services for harm reduction and counselling.

Island Health says the site will need to undergo extensive renovations before it opens sometime in the spring or summer of 2018. In 2016, in British Columbia, 967 citizens died from a drug overdose. Some may see this as a siren call for action through harm reduction.

The site may be one of the steps in the Vancouver Island area to begin working on these issues around overdoses. 156 of the 967 deaths were on Vancouver Island.

The Vancouver Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick, said, “The introduction of supervised consumption services is an important step in saving lives and harm reduction.”

Stanwick emphasized the opioid crisis and its “tremendous toll on the Island,” and so the need to provide more for hr needs of the communities regarding the problem of overdoses.

He mentioned supports and resources regarding this. “The opioid crisis has taken a tremendous toll on the Island and as health care providers, we must offer greater supports and resources to people in the communities we serve.”

2017 has not been much of a brighter series of months because the statistics between January and May, alone, have shown that 96 people have died from a drug overdose on Vancouver Island, which, as everyone familiar with the spectre of death and tragedy of permanent loss, affects the families and communities for years afterwards, typically.

The PHS Community Services Society and the Island Health made the join application for the operation of the supervised consumption site at 844 Johnston Street. Health Canada is reviewing the joint application now. “In total, there are eight overdose prevention sites on Vancouver Island,” CTV Vancouver Island said.


Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen


Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail:



Drug Checking Workshop

Drug Checking Workshop

Canada is currently facing one of the largest drug adulteration epidemics in the country’s history, mainly via street level trafficking of drugs. Drug dealers and suppliers are cutting their drugs with myriads of random chemicals and powders that look similar to the drug they are selling in order to turn more of a profit while giving out less of the actual drug. Due to this, for the sake of harm reduction and safety, it has become more important than ever for drug users to take it upon themselves to attempt to find out exactly what it is they purchased rather than believing whatever the source says it is. A simple way to do this is to purchase a simple drug testing kit.

Drug Testing Kits

Drug testing kits come in many shapes and sizes, but the most simple, portable, and easily accessible ones comes in the form of an empty plastic cylinder, an eyedropper with a chemical reagent, and the corresponding color wheel to the reagent.

Depending on the substance, different reagents will be needed in order to identify what MAY be in the sample being tested. IMPORTANT: These drug testing kits are not infallible and only inform the user of what could be within a given tested sample (i.e. the test only tells you what it finds in the sample you chose to use, there could be other adulterants within the bag that simply was used for the test). That being said, it is important to do multiple tests with the same primary reagent, along with other reagents that also work for the substance in need of testing. One can never test enough!

A Short How-To Walkthrough

These test kits work for powders, crystals, as well as blotter (common LSD paper).

  1. Take a small sample of the drug in question and place it into the plastic tube (can also use a pure white surface)
  2. Use the eyedropper to drop enough reagent onto the drug to cover it
  3. Shake the plastic cylinder for 30 seconds to one minute (or allow the reagent to mix with the drug on the white surface for the same amount of time)
  4. Compare resulting colour to the color wheel associated with the reagent used.

Ordering test kits

The easiest source to get reliable, standardized testing kits from are the Bunk Police. They offer a wide variety of testing kits for all common drugs along with a video catalog of what reactions should look like using each reagent with each substance.

Please see a more in-depth guide to drug checking here.

Avery Sapoznikow

Avery Sapoznikow

Outreach Chair

Avery is in his final year working towards his Bachelors Degree in Psychology (Hons.) at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. Currently, he is the vice president of CSSDP Okanagan and hopes to continue his studies in Clinical Psychology with a research program surrounding cannabis and psychedelics. Read more here.

Voices: Stephanie Lake on getting involved in CSSDP, punitive approaches to drug policy and harm reduction resources

Voices: Stephanie Lake on getting involved in CSSDP, punitive approaches to drug policy and harm reduction resources

How did you get an interest in Canadian drug policy?

I became interested in Canadian drug policy while I was studying health sciences at the University of Ottawa. I wrote a paper on supervised injection sites for a sociology of health course, and throughout my literature review, I found myself getting increasingly frustrated at the state of our prohibitive and punitive drug policies which all seemed to be based on ideology rather than evidence. This frustration left me feeling determined to contribute to change in drug policy through health research and advocacy.  

What is your position in the chapter and responsibilities?

I am currently working with a small group of students to revive CSSDP’s Vancouver chapter. I fell into this role when I came across the CSSDP Vancouver facebook group, and noticed a post from a former CSSDP board member asking if anyone wanted to try and get the chapter going again. I decided to give it a try, and I’m really happy that I did. Right now, since we are a relatively small core group of 3-4 students; we all share the responsibility of chairing meetings, organizing events, and growing the chapter. Our chapter is organizing its first event (naloxone training for students and youth in Vancouver). I have also recently joined the national board, where I will be focusing on student outreach and conference planning.

Any areas for improvement for CSSDP?

I have only been involved with CSSDP for a few months, so it is a bit early to say for sure. I am hoping to see communication between what’s going on nationally and what’s going on with individual chapters. It would be great to be part of a movement with all other chapters across the country. I am happy that the organization is supportive of engagement in both higher-level policy issues as well as individual-level interventions. For example, here in Vancouver we are facing an immediate crisis of fentanyl-related overdoses. Although this crisis warrants many higher-level policy discussions about the harms of prohibition and the benefits of harm reduction, the most immediate steps we can take to respond to this crisis is through making sure that students and youth have access to naloxone and know how to use it. I’m glad that naloxone training is within the scope of activities mandated by CSSDP.

What is your perspective on the more punitive approaches to drug policy and the harm reduction approach?

I think most people know by now that the war on drugs is a failure. Punitive approaches to drug policy just don’t work, and they don’t protect the health and human rights of people who use drugs. Substance use has been around as long as humans have walked the earth, so it is unrealistic to think that we can just abolish such a deeply rooted human behaviour through punitive measures. Instead, we should be supporting the health of people who use drugs through minimizing the potential harms associated with drug use. When we do this, we reduce stigma that is so often linked to drug use, connect people who use drugs to health and social resources, and ultimately protect the health of the entire population.

What are the consequences on individuals with drug misuse if the punitive issues are employed?

Since the war on drugs began in the 1970’s the number of individuals in the US who have been incarcerated for drug law violations has gone up more than 10-fold. In other parts of the world, including the Philippines and Vietnam, drug-related offences can even result in the death penalty. These harsh responses to drug use mean that people who use drugs are often pushed underground, where they become disconnected with potentially life-saving health and social supports. Incarceration has been linked to HIV infection (people do use drugs in jails, but they don’t have access to clean needles/pipes because this would require admitting that drugs get into jails), poor HIV treatment access and sub-optimal treatment outcomes, inadequate access to evidence-based addiction treatment (e.g. opioid substitution treatment), etc. Also, once someone goes to jail for drugs, it becomes hard to break the cycle. Many individuals will struggle to find steady employment or decent housing, and risk returning to drug dealing or related illicit activities to support themselves or their families.

How does this cascade into larger society?

It is incredibly expensive to incarcerate individuals for drug use, and at the rate we’re going, it also isn’t sustainable. I think the biggest way punitive approaches to drug use can cascade into larger society is through divesting funds from other approaches that could have a positive effect on society. For example, roughly 73% of the previous Canadian federal government’s drug strategy expenditures were dedicated to enforcement, while research, prevention, treatment, and harm reduction were left to share the remaining 27% of funds. When we put so much time and energy into reactionary measures, we are unlikely to address the root causes of the “problem.”  

Who are some researchers in the harm reduction movement who are reliable sources of information?

When I first became interested in drug policy and harm reduction, I was inspired by the team of investigators at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS who were heavily involved in the evaluation of Insite (Vancouver’s supervised injection site). This includes Dr. Thomas Kerr, Dr. Evan Wood, Dr. Mark Tyndall, Dr. Brandon Marshall, Dr. M-J Milloy, and Dr. Julio Montaner, and many others. I have also spent a lot of time reading Dr. Don Des Jarlais’ research – he was one of the harm reduction pioneers in response to the HIV crisis in New York City in the 90’s. My PhD supervisor, Dr. Jane Buxton, does some amazing work coordinating BC’s harm reduction programming as head of harm reduction at the BC Centre for Disease Control. Tim Rhodes has also done an amazing job conceptualizing a health framework (the Risk Environment) for drug-related health outcomes among people who use drugs. Instead of focusing on individual behaviours, this framework sees drug-related harm as a result of interacting social, physical, policy, and economic states on macro- and micro-levels.  

What about organizations?

Vancouver has many user-led community organizations (e.g. Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users; Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society; BC Association for People on Methadone) who offer a great resource about on-the-ground experience with drug policy and harm reduction in Vancouver. In terms of larger national organizations, I often check out what’s going on with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, the Canadian Harm Reduction Network, and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

Any new thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

I’m very happy that I took the chance to be involved with CSSDP, and I’m really excited to see where this work takes me. My own research focuses on the health implications of cannabis legalization for people who use drugs, particularly in the context of the current opioid crisis. It is a really exciting time to be involved in drug policy in Canada!

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen


Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail:
CSSDP 2017 AGM: Naloxone, Medical Coverage, Cannabis Education

CSSDP 2017 AGM: Naloxone, Medical Coverage, Cannabis Education

The Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy Annual General Meeting is just around the corner! We did a lot over the past year – from participating in Support Don’t Punish and Overdose Day last summer, to facilitating Youth Speak, a youth roundtable on cannabis legalization and helping with the sold-out 9/20 conference in Toronto, from developing grassroots workshops and organizing panels on local levels across Canada to participating in global initiatives with our international partners – and we expect to do even more this coming year.

Join us for the Annual General Meeting this Monday, June 24, 2017 at 5:30 PST/8:30 EST. We’ll be using a tool called Zoom to connect via video conference or you can call in by phone from anywhere – sign-up via this form to get the invite straight to your inbox on Monday morning! If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to email us.  

Get together, get pizza!

At the AGM, you’ll learn about what CSSDP has planned for the rest of 2017 and how you can get involved on an individual level and as a part of your local chapter. Contact us if you’re not currently a part of a chapter and still want to be involved, or check out your chapter’s page here.

We’re offering $25 pizza vouchers for CSSDP chapters that get together for the AGM — send us a picture of your team together participating in the AGM and a picture of your receipt in order to take advantage of this once-a-year opportunity! Please note, we only have one voucher for each chapter, so make sure to coordinate. We suggest meeting at a library, school, or a quiet coffee shop. We’ll have several more opportunities like this in the next year so if you can’t take advantage of this one, make sure to connect with your chapter, sign up to our newsletter, and stay tuned!

CSSDP’s 2017 goals

The National Board put our heads together to come up with 3 smart, achievable goals that we, as a national organization, can work towards together with CSSDP Chapters across Canada this year.

1. Naloxone training & good samaritan policies on campus

Naloxone (Narcan) is an injectable opioid antagonist drug that can be safely administered to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Despite that substance use, including illicit drug use, is part of post-secondary student culture, student populations have been largely overlooked in many efforts across the country to expand access to naloxone. CSSDP is working towards changing that. Learn how your chapter can work towards these policies on your campus too.

2. Medical cannabis coverage in student health plans

Since cannabis does not have a Drug Identification Number (DIN), it isn’t covered under typical drug spending on insurance plans. These out-of-pocket costs are a significant barrier for cannabis patients who are already struggling with mounting student debt. We’ll talk about some steps to help you advocate for your university’s student health plan to include coverage of medical cannabis for students authorized under the ACMPR.

3. Comprehensive and evidence-based cannabis education

One of the main takeaways from our youth roundtable, Youth Speak: Cannabis Legalization in the 21st Century, was the need for realistic (i.e. non-exaggerated), science-based and non-judgmental educational messaging around cannabis use, including strategies for safer cannabis consumption. We are collaborating with Canopy Growth and Parents Action on Drugs (PAD) Ontario to develop evidence-based educational tools for youth and parents in Canada. You’ll learn what we’re doing, and what steps you can take to help.

What will your Chapter do this year?

We’ll be announcing not one but two contests at the end of the Annual General Meeting. If you can’t be there, you still get to participate — but those who join us will hear the details first, and get a heads start!

Here’s a clue: another one of our goals is to beef up the resources section on the website and build up a storage bank of ready-to-go events. There will be both individual and chapter prizes, so we hope you’ll attend to get the scoop sooner than most.

Remember to fill out this form to join us for the 2017 Annual General Meeting (we’ll send you an email with log in details!), and share our poster to inspire others to get together and talk about sensible drug policy in Canada and what this year will bring for CSSDP.

Dessy Pavlova

Dessy Pavlova


A professional writing and English graduate, aspiring project manager and sensible drug policy advocate, Dessy works for Lift and does research, outreach, writing and web development.
Find out more.

Send us an email:

6 + 1 =

An Interview with Antonio Cillero, Volunteer for CSSDP

An Interview with Antonio Cillero, Volunteer for CSSDP

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, readability, and concision.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you get interested in Canadian drug policy?

Antonio Cillero: I attended the conference at the University of Toronto in 2015. It seemed interesting. I wanted to see what they were doing.

Jacobsen: What chapter are you involved in now?

Cillero: The University of Toronto chapter now, I know the students. I graduated (from Queen;s University, not UofT), but work with them.

Jacobsen: What activities are you involved in the Toronto area for drug policy?

Cillero: Psychedelic storytelling, we have been planning things around it in addition to naloxone training.

Jacobsen: British Columbia, where I live, has a fentanyl crisis. Is it similar in Toronto?

Cillero: Yes, 3 injection sites will begin here. One in the Downtown area, one in Queen Street West and one in the Leslieville area. There is concern about overdosing here too.

Jacobsen: What would you consider the main principle or value of CSSDP?

Cillero: I think the main goal of our organization is to inform people about drugs, but from an evidence-based perspective rather than the old Ronald Reagan view.

Jacobsen: That leads to harm reduction and punitive strategies. Punitive has been longer-term. Harm reduction is newer to the public. What is more effective?

Cillero: In my opinion, it is the harm reduction approach. I am for the principle of cognitive liberty. Any adult should be able to alter their own consciousness and manage their own health. Anybody should be free to do what they want with their mind and their body, and that includes using drugs. Drug abuse and addiction should be seen as a healthcare issues rather than a law enforcement issues.

Jacobsen: Where do you hope CSSDP goes into the future?

Cillero: Not many people know about CSSDP, we want people to know about what we do and get them involved. There is an general interest about drugs and I would like CSSDP to be part of that conversation and continue to grow.

Jacobsen: We have marijuana legalization in the public now. Are other substances more likely to be talked about now?

Cillero: I would like it. I do not think this will happen in the next 5 or 10 years though. We have discussions about it. Only after clinical research as with cannabis. We have MAPS sponsoring some really interesting studies about MDMA. We have studies being done on psilocybin at John Hopkins University. So it will happen eventually. However, there’s more stigma to those substances than marijuana.

People still believe those substances are harsher. It seems unlikely to me.

Jacobsen: If the discussion doesn’t happen, and if things are regulated, then the discussion will go underground and the sales will go underground.

Cillero: With things like psychedelics, we will not have fear about overdosing on psilocybin or LSD. Substances in the public, even in the cannabis community, have a stigma to them. People who use drugs need to be more empathetic towards each other. Right now, I don’t see it. Heroine is highly stigmatized now. People who use cannabis say, “Cannabis is not like heroine or cocaine.” There is stigma.

Psychedelics might become legal for medicinal use, but not for recreational. There is stigma, fear, and misunderstanding about them.

Jacobsen: What about particular experiments, societal experiments where they legalized one, some, most, or all drugs, in those experiments in general, are the societies’ citizens better or worse off?

Cillero: I believe in Oregon there has been a reduction in crime rate, especially violent crimes, but correlation cannot be linked to causation for this. Once more people have access to cannabis, consumption will likely increase and there might be more cases of problems associated with the use of this substance. Legalization has positive and negative effects. But then those cases will be treated as clinical or health issues, not as criminal problems.

Long-term users would see a benefit of legalization. There might be negative consequences. I am not saying there would not be, but we need to be realistic, like alcohol. It is legal. People use alcohol in different ways. Some people have problems with their use. The government can help those with issues.

Jacobsen: Does that view tie back into your value of “cognitive liberty”?

Cillero: It does. It ties in with cognitive liberty. Adults should be allowed to use these substances if they wish to. If something goes wrong, they should be able to get help. We have health services. If someone is having problems, the health service should help them.

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Antonio.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen


Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail:
An Interview with Avery Sapoznikow, Vice President at UBCO-CSSDP and Member of the Board of Directors

An Interview with Avery Sapoznikow, Vice President at UBCO-CSSDP and Member of the Board of Directors

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, readability, and conciseness

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with CSSDP? How did you get an interest in Canadian drug policy?

Avery Sapoznikow: This past year I graduated from the Unviersity of British Columbia Okanagan with an Honours Degree in Psychology. My thesis topic explored the relationship between cannabis use and attention usng self-reports and objective behavioral measures of attention and reaction time. My invovlement with CSSDP began in August 2016 when I joined the Okanagan Chapter of CSSDP (Founded by Michelle Thiessen, current board member and my co-worker in our lab). Soon after becoming inolved with the Okanagan chapter I was informed of a vacancy on the National CSSDP board and I volunteered to get myself even more involved in the fight for sensible drug policy.


Jacobsen: What is the lab with Michelle?

Sapoznikow: We’re both involved in the Therapeutic, Recreational, and Problematic Substance Use Lab run by Dr. Zach Walsh at UBC Okanagan.


Jacobsen: With the UBCO chapter of CSSDP, how many members now?

Sapoznikow: Currently we have around 25 members and 10 active contributing members


Jacobsen: What are some activities of the chapter?

Sapoznikow: This past year we created a co-operative program with the nurses on campus around naloxone – they have been running workshops with our support and we have been colalborating with campus health and wellness to train students to use nalaoxone, on a weekly basis. I personally organized and presented a talk on drug checking and gave a live demonstration on how to use common drug testing kits effectively (Using sugar). We also hosted a Cannabis and Mental Health talk by Dr. Walsh and hosted a movie screenign about drug checking as an early event. The biggest thing we accomplished in the past year was beginning the project to implement a Good Samaritan Policy into the UBC Student Code of Conduct.


Jacobsen: What is your position and responsibilities in the chapter and nationally?

Sapoznikow: Locally, I am the Vice President of CSSDP Okanagan where I co-chair meetings with the president, organize events, communicate with members, collaborate with other student clubs, and try to make positive change on our campus. Nationally, I am a member of the board of directors and Chair of the Outreach subcommittee, where I particiapte in national board meetings, contribute to national fundraising initiatives, political advocacy, grant applications, and blogs posts. For the Outreach subcommitte, I chair the meetings and, with the help of all the other board members, organize and plan our local, national, political, and business-oriented outreach projects.


Jacobsen: How do you draw people into the chapter?

Sapoznikow: Tabling events and social media have been a huge part of slowly building up the chapter.  I find a lot of peopel are a lot more comfortable being part of dialogue from the comfort of their own homes so they follow us on facebook and get updates that way.


Jacobsen: What is the general perspective, for people well-entrenched in the field, on the more punitive approaches to drug policy and the harm reduction approaches?

Sapoznikow: Currently, the punitive approaches have been shown to be an ineffective way to deal with these problems. We need to shift away from punitive measures and criminalization and start thinking of these issues as health issues rather than criminal issues. That’s my perspective.


Jacobsen: What are the consequences of punitive actions on individuals with drug misuse?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Sapoznikow: Generally punitive measures such as imprisonment or harsher penalties in other countries do not solve the issue of drug abuse. It simply forces these individuals to be stuck in situations of drug abuse and criminal activity and then inevitable prison time. In the process, any mental health issues occurring, including the substance use disorders themselves, will likely be exacerbated. All around they generally just worsen an already poor situation.


Jacobsen: How does this cascade into larger society?

Sapoznikow: Unfortunately due to the conditions of the individuals who usually face these punitive measures, it places them into a cycle of minor drug offense to prison time to lower job availability, and even lower socioeconomic status. It places individuals deeper into this low-SES lifestyle where drug use may increase. This puts these indivdiauls at an even greater risk of harming themselves which could then cascade into how much it affects the people who have to treat them in the healthcare system. That’s just one of many resulting issues from punitive responses to low-impact drug crimes.


Jacobsen: What are some organizations involved in the harm reduction movement?

Sapoznikow: Off the top of my head, Drug Policy Alliance, NORML, and our US equivalent group SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)

Jacobsen: Since you’re newer, you have a fresh perspective on the operations of CSSDP, Any areas for improvement for CSSDP?

Sapoznikow: The strongest aspect of CSSDP has to be the social media reach and well as our political advocacy and collaborative comapigns. We have a fairly large reach on our social media which allows us to spread ideas and useful information to all of our followers surrounding drug policy, harm reduction, and safe drug use.  We also have strong relationships with politicians and are asked to provide input on topics relevant to our scope. An area of improvement for CSSDP would definitely be inter-chapter communication. I think we could become a more unified organization across Canada if we put more time and effort into building chapter to chapter relationships and from there who knows what we could take on as an organization.


Jacobsen: Some organizations have a network. Whether it’s a repository for conversation like for a for articles or interviews, all of the organizations in one place. It wouldn’t be tiered, but simply a nexus. Do you think that is a good idea for harm reduction in Canada?

Sapoznikow: Definitely, I think collaborative efforts are key for the spreading of good harm reduction information. If individuals from all around the world, at least one large general area, could have single place to pick each other’s brains and come up with new and innovative ideas we would be lightyears ahead of where we are now. 

Jacobsen: Any new thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

Sapoznikow: CSSDP is a fantastic organization that is trying to make positive change in the areas of drug policy, harm reduction, and drug safety. If you’re interested in getting involved or learning more about any of these topics and more, check out our website for more information. (


Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Avery.



Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen


Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: