From Betsos, Alex (2019), “What’s in Drugs Baby Don’t Hurt Me: Professionalization of Changing Drug Knowledge in British Columbia”
March 31, 2020
For Immediate Release
International Drug Checking Day 2020 – A Call to Action in Expanding Drug Checking Services for All
On this International Day of Drug-Checking, we stand with grassroots organizers working to transform and reduce systemic harms exacerbated by the War on Drugs.
Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) stands in solidarity with those who continue to fight for equitable and accessible drug checking services for all. On this International Drug Checking Day, we would like to recognize and acknowledge the work of organizers across these occupied and stolen lands who provide these necessary, life-saving services. As we work to fight for a system that prioritizes addressing the toxic drug supply, these services must continue to provide life-saving harm reduction support while also centering the needs of marginalized, racialized, and disenfranchised people and communities who use drugs.
Drug checking, like many other harm reduction services, has been threatened by COVID-19. In Vancouver, for example, all drug checking services have ceased to operate amid the viral outbreak, except for one, which only operates by mail. In a time where the drug supply is dwindling in several areas in Canada, people who use drugs are particularly vulnerable to increased risk. As such, it is crucial for these services to have support and from our government to think about ways that a safe supply can be provided for all people who use drugs.
If a drug shortage at both the pharmaceutical level and street-level is unavoidable, we at CSSDP consider offering low-barrier drug checking solutions in order to reduce the harm that a tainted drug supply can cause. Drug checking is a preventative measure that can be impactful for people who use drugs. With adequate information about the potency and adulteration of the drug supply, people who use drugs can make more informed choices and can protect themselves during a time when the medical system is overburdened
The Canadian government has an obligation to protect everyone, and that includes people who use drugs. On this International Drug Checking Day, we urge the Canadian government to rapidly expand safe supply options, including for Kadian (morphine), Hydromorphone for opioid agonist treatment and Dexedrine, Ritalin/Biphentin and Modafinil for stimulant substitution.
If the supply for these life-saving medications is limited, we urge the Canadian government to make the tools of Health Canada’s Drug Analysis Service available to the public and for universities to use their lab equipment for the purpose of drug checking. If pharmaceutical-grade drug supplies continue to dwindle, Health Canada should test and then distribute drugs currently seized by RCMP and local law enforcement through the currently existing illegal drug distribution networks. Drug checking services could be used to expedite testing. Scaling up these services now could save lives in the future.
In lieu of the government supporting people who use drugs, we must take care of each other. As such, we encourage people who use drugs to access test kits if available.
These might seem like extreme measures, but we live in extreme times. Drug checking is one essential harm reduction service among many that are necessary to preserve the safety and health of our loved ones who use drugs. In solidarity with frontline workers, community advocates, and people who use drugs, we urge governments at all levels to act promptly to avoid future and avoidable harms exacerbated by the current overdose crisis.