Using Drugs


COVID-19 Harm Reduction Tips for People Who Use Drugs:

Don’t Use Alone:

Using while isolated greatly increases your risk of fatal overdose. If you need to use while alone, consider calling a friend or relative to act as a drug spotter over the phone. Make sure to give them your location first.

Don’t Share:

Pipes, Bongs, Vapes or Joints, nasal tubes and all injecting equipment including: sterilized water, cookers, filters, wipes, ties, etc.

On Opioid Agonist Therapy?

If you are on OAT, ask your doctor if you can get an extended prescription for 1 month. Ask if you can skip appointments and urine testing for at least one month.

Stock-up on Drug-using Equipment/Materials:

Get enough to last you at least 3-4 weeks (longer if you are high risk for infection and if programs can manage it), this includes Naloxone.

Develop a Safety Plan:

If you plan to stock up on substances (including alcohol) to avoid withdrawal, develop a safety plan with a trusted friend, relative, or partner to make sure that you don’t binge on your substances. Do you need to portion out your substances? Leave them with a partner? Record the amount you use per hour or day? 

Binging could lead to a fatal overdose or it may leave you feeling dopesick tomorrow. 

Remind yourself why you stocked up: not for a party today, but to last you the next few weeks.

Wash Your Hands:

With soap and hot water vigorously for at least 20 seconds (but longer if you can) every time you come into contact with others, after handling money and after you get your drugs. Paper towels are preferred for drying hands, or at least use a clean towel.

Prepare Your Drugs Yourself:

Ensure that you don’t touch or handle other people’s equipment/drugs and don’t let them touch yours.

Avoid Putting Drug Bags/Wraps in Your Mouth, Vagina or Anus:

If you must carry it in your body, clean vigorously with an alcohol-based cleanser both before you put it in and after you take it out. If carried in your mouth, use an alcohol-based mouthwash afterwards.

Be Prepared to Go Through Involuntary Withdrawal:

If your supplier(s) get sick, have back-up plans and make sure you have all the necessary medications, food and drinks you will need to detox off opiates. Similar steps can be taken by those with habit to other drugs.

Drug Checking at Home:

Fentanyl test strips are used to test for the presence of fentanyl within a substance and can be used at home or outside of an OPS site. It’s not a perfect test – it won’t tell you the concentration of fentanyl or the other substances in your drugs – and we recommend that you follow other harm reduction tips too (ex. start low, go slow; never use alone; and, get checked at an OPS site). You can get trained and pick up test strips from approved VCH sites, like HIM’s Davie St Health Centre.

Immune Response:

Substance use affects your body’s immune system and puts you at a greater risk during the covid-19 health crisis. Caring for your health is especially critical now to avoid becoming sick.


Harm Reduction Tips for Heroin and Opioid Users: 

Never Use Alone: Despite physical distancing advice, new users and those who inject should avoid using opiates alone. The risk of overdose is greater than the risk of coronavirus. Try to have naloxone and teach others how to use it. 

Get Connected: Check with your regular services- including treatment provider, pharmacist and drugs programs – to see if they are changing how they operate. For instance, ask if larger supplies of methadone or drug using equipment are being made available. 

Smoking and Lung Health: Heroin smokers need to be aware COVID-19 can make it difficult or painful to inhale smoke or vapour. If you become unable to smoke heroin and you don’t inject, this leaves 3 options: 

  • Snort it: chop the powder finely and sniff it up your nose slowly using a tube 
  • UYB: dissolve brown heroin with citric or ascorbic acid, and draw it into a syringe – with no needle – and slowly squirt it Up Your Bum into your rectum 
  • Swallow it: this means the heroin will go via your liver before it reaches your brain, resulting in a morphine-like effect – but it also stops withdrawals

Buying Drugs

When your dealer visits you at your home: Protect yourself with at least a mask and gloves when you meet your dealer at the door/in your hallway, and stay at least 6 feet away from them whenever possible. Put your money down on the floor/table and step back 6 feet while the dealer picks up the money and puts the drugs down. After your dealer leaves, you can then pick up the packages, clean them with an alcohol-based sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) – or transfer the drugs to another bag/container – and then wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. 

Buying drugs when you visit your dealer at their home or in public: Before leaving to visit your dealer, protect yourself with at least a mask and gloves. Rehearse a valid reason for why you are outside, to give to police if they stop you and ask where you’re going – and use ‘props’ to back this up. For instance, be prepared to say that you’re going shopping for yourself or a vulnerable person, making sure both that you are carrying a shopping bag and that you have details of your supermarket and/or an address close to where your dealer lives. 

Stay at least 6 feet away from your dealer and all other people you meet – though note that the police are allowed to come closer to you. Be respectful to the police to avoid interrogation and police interest. 

Know your rights when talking to police and check out this resource from Pivot Legal Society: https://www.pivotlegal.org/know-your-rights-handbook 

  • Because of circumstances around COVID-19, police may issue tickets to people who do not abide by physical distancing protocols, or bylaws around physical distancing may be used as an excuse to approach people in public spaces. Pivot Legal Society recommends using these three phrases to help you figure out what the situation is and help protect your rights during the interaction: 1) Am I free to go? 2) I do not consent to the search; and 3) I would like to remain silent. Check out their resource for more detailed information. 

Go home using a different route so that if you come across police again, it won’t be the same officers who may have stopped you on your way out. 

Buy as many drugs as you can afford on one visit, but (a) no more than you can reasonably hide on your person or in grocery bags/boxes,and (b) keep in mind the risk of being charged with possession with intent to supply if you are caught with several bags/wraps. 

Avoid getting into cars or any other small, confined spaces when you meet your dealer. Meeting them at their home or a private building is probably the safest: put your money on the floor/table and step back 6 feet while the dealer picks up the money, puts the drugs down, and retreats back 6 feet; you can then pick up the drugs and leave. 

When you get home, clean the drug packages with an alcohol-based sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) if it’s been inside your body – or transfer the drugs to another bag/container – and then wash your hands for at least 20 seconds


Dealing 

Delivering to the homes/locations of customers

  • Before leaving to visit your customers, protect yourself with at least a mask and gloves, and take a charged phone with up to date numbers for lawyers or useful contacts in case things go wrong. 
  • Avoid hiding the drug packages inside your mouth, anus or fronthole – if you do, clean them with an alcohol-based sanitizer first. If you are carrying groceries as a cover for your dealing, consider hiding your drug sand money at the bottom of the bag/box. Rehearse a valid reason for why you are outside to give to police if they stop you and ask where you’re going – and use ‘props’ to back this up. For instance, be prepared to say that you’re going shopping for yourself or a vulnerable person, making sure that you are carrying a shopping bag and that you have details of your supermarket and/or an address close to where your customer lives. Or consider dressing as a delivery driver, healthcare worker or other essential worker. 
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from your customers and all other people you meet – though note that the police are allowed to come closer to you. 
  • Be respectful to the police to avoid interrogation or police interest. 
  • Go home using a different route so that if you come across police again, it won’t be the same officers who may have stopped you on your way out. 
  • Know your rights when talking to police and check out this resource from Pivot Legal Society: https://www.pivotlegal.org/know-your-rights-handbook 
    • Because of circumstances around COVID-19, police may issue tickets to people who do not abide by physical distancing protocols, or bylaws around physical distancing may be used as an excuse to approach people in public spaces. Pivot Legal Society recommends using these three phrases to help you figure out what the situation is and help protect your rights during the interaction: 1) Am I free to go? 2) I do not consent to the search; and 3) I would like to remain silent. Check out their resource for more detailed information. 
    • Avoid getting into cars or other small, confined spaces when you meet your customers. Meeting customers at their home is probably the safest. After they have put their money on the floor/table and stepped back 6 feet, pick up the money and put the drugs down. Before leaving, encourage customers to clean the packages and to wash their hands after handling them. 
    •  Before visiting your next customer, clean your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer, and try to avoid handling your money any more than necessary. 
    • When you get home, clean any drug packages you kept inside your body with an alcohol-based sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) – and then wash your hands for at least 20 seconds 

Dealing drugs from your home

  • Before answering the door, put on at least a mask and gloves. 
  • Don’t let customers come into your home beyond coming inside the door. 
  • Ask them to put the money down on the floor/table and step back 6 feet, then you pick up the money and put the drugs down and step back 6 feet. The customer can then return, pick up the drugs, and leave. Encourage them to clean the drugs packages and wash their hands when they get home. 
  • After each deal, use a bleach-based or alcohol-based cleanser to wipe down your door handles and any other surfaces the customer may have touched. Then wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Wash your hands after handling cash or other items that your customer has come in contact with and avoid touching your face.