This month, I wanted to talk about serious (an incredibly important) topics. This post will include discussion of risky behaviours, as well as of substance abuse and addiction.
This past year, an absolutely massive spike in overdoses and accidental deaths related to risky behaviours and/or drug use has been seen across Canada. Updated Canadian statistics documenting this trend can be found here:
The numbers are staggering. How can we prevent them from continuing to grow? How can we reduce the harm to people who are struggling with addiction and engagement in risky behaviours?
In my opinion:
First, we need to actually start talking about it. Stigmatization only puts people further at risk.
Second, following the introduction of an influential public discourse on these topics, we need to start acting on our thoughts and words by making the changes that need to be made to reduce the harm for those with addictions and/or substance abuse disorders.
What can our institutions and each and every one of us individuals actually do to ensure both steps are achieved?
We can focus on harm reduction.
So, what does “harm reduction” mean?
According to HealthLinkBC, harm reduction is:
“a public health approach that aims to reduce harms related to substance use. Harm reduction includes many options and approaches. It may include abstinence, or not using substances at all. Stopping all substance use isn’t required before receiving care. It meets people wherever they are in their substance use journey. Evidence shows that harm reduction does not increase or encourage substance use.
Harm reduction strategies and services can lessen the consequences associated with substance use. The consequences include social, physical, emotional and/or spiritual concerns. It may include access to safer sex and safer substance use supplies and/or take home naloxone. It also involves outreach and support programs and referrals to health and support services. Harm reduction helps ensure services are non-judgmental and available to all.
Harm reduction treats people with respect. It helps people connect with others and develop healthy relationships. It involves working directly with people and their communities. The service helps individuals, families and friends learn harm reduction skills. People can learn about the resources and supports in their communities.”
As UVic students, thinking about harm reduction in this way begs the question: are there harm reduction initiatives at UVic?
The answer is: YES!
The UVSS has an ongoing Safer Use campaign, which entails harm reduction education and Nalaxone Kit Training sessions (which I highly recommend; we should ALL know how to properly prevent an overdose using a Nalaxone kit).
UVic is also home to the Harm Reduction Centre (HRC). In the basement of the Student Union Building on the UVic campus, directly to the left of the bottom of the stairs, you will find the HRC! (I am actually a volunteer here, so I can give you all the amazing details about the HRC that you may not be aware of).
The HRC is open from 2-4pm PST on Thursday and Friday afternoons. During these hours, harm reduction supplies and educational information is available for pickup by UVic students. The harm reduction supplies available at the HRC include safer injection supplies, drug injection preparation supplies, safer snorting supplies, safer smoking supplies, external condoms, internal condoms, lubricant, various-sized syringes, rubber gloves, sharps containers, Nalaxone Kits, and Fentanyl testing strips.
Because asking for these supplies can be difficult for several reasons stemming from societal stigma, the HRC is designed to make the distribution of harm reduction supplies and educational materials as easy as possible. We want more people to feel comfortable asking for, and receiving, harm reduction supplies. To facilitate this, an anonymous online order form was created. So, if you were wanting (for example) external condoms, you would open the HRC’s online order form, and specify you are wanting external condoms. Following this, a plain bag including your requested supplies (labelled with an alias of your choice) will be placed in front of the HRC from 2-4pm PST on Thursday and Fridays for you to pick up. I also want to make this clear: us volunteers are not directly involved in the pickup process, so any UVic student picking up their requested supplies are not in a position where they have to interact with us (or anyone) while doing so.
We all have the ability to help facilitate the reduction of harm in our communities and at UVic. Let’s do this together.
Screw the stigma<3
The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.