What are some local examples that show the positive impacts of harm reduction?
There’s an organization in Montreal called Group de recherche et d’intervention psychosociale (GRIP). They are a francophone harm reduction group based on Montreal with whom I have volunteered in the past.
They are invited to various events and festivals in Montreal, specifically events where people are regularly using drugs. They have well-trained and knowledgeable people staffing tables at these events, and they provide safer drug use information and answer questions that event attendees may have. This is an important service because many people have not have had an open place to have conversation about drugs and get their questions answered.
Unfortunately, the law prohibits groups in Canada from bringing drug testing equipment to such events, so they are not able to provide that service at this time.
What about online resources, e.g. forums and discussion groups?
There can be a lot of value in online discussion forums and groups. Although, in a forum, you might not know who is speaking or how much weight to put on what they say. It can be hard to ascertain the credibility of the information. It’s important to take things with a grain of salt and not rely solely on what one person said.
Because of the nature of drug laws and the stigma around open discussion on drugs in public and in person, a lot of great resources exist online. The website Erowid.org has provided thousands of people with very open, non-judgmental information about an incredibly large variety of drugs for years.
Outside of forums and discussion groups, many harm reduction groups have also built useful resources online. TRIP, a Toronto-based harm reduction group, is a great example. These groups provide reliable information on drug use. Many people turn to these groups because they provide an open and non-judgmental forum to find information and get your questions answered.
What national harm reduction experts come to mind?
I have to mention the executive director of GRIP in Montreal, Julie Soleil-Meeson. She’s wonderful. The work that she does providing harm reduction services around Montreal is very beneficial, and she is also very passionate about bringing drug checking services into Canada.
As well, I would mention TRIP as a whole. There are many staff there working in a variety of capacities. They are educated, open, and they do great work both onsite and online. From my interactions with them, they embody the attitude that people working in this field need to have to be effective.
Lastly, I would mention Karmik in Vancouver, which is a nightlife harm reduction group. They provide harm reduction services to events and festivals in their area, and they were founded by Alex Betsos, who is a former board member of CSSDP.