Harm reduction: We see it all around us. It’s all about reducing the risk for yourself and others. It prevents people from being harmed or dying from risky activities.
We know driving a car can be risky, and that motor vehicle collisions happen. So we wear seatbelts and use car seats to reduce the risk.
Being Canadian, we love our summer sun, but we also know it can cause skin cancer. So we play in the shade and wear sunscreen.
We know that sex can be a fun and healthy part of peoples’ lives, but we also know that infections can spread via sexual contact. So we use condoms and get tested.
We could reduce the risk from all these activities drastically if we just didn’t partake in them—never drive a car (or put your kids in one), stay indoors all summer and remain abstinent. That being said, we would never wish harm on someone who chose to have sex, drive or play in the sun.
We know that some people use drugs, even though there are risks. Harm reduction can be applied here too, by giving people a safe place to use, by providing new equipment to reduce the spread of diseases and by providing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.
But what other programs and services do people who use drugs need to help keep them safer?
Are people experiencing barriers to accessing existing services?
These are two of the questions we’re hoping to answer through a new online survey.
Why WDG Public Health wants to hear about drug use
This week (February 2019) we’re launching a survey open to residents ages 16 and up across Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph who use drugs other than alcohol, cannabis or tobacco.
We will use the information gathered to inform local strategies, identify gaps and provide a better understanding of substance use in the community. These results will complement a needs assessment completed in 2018, which focused on understanding themes around substance use, supervised consumption sites (SCS) and harm reduction programming among those already accessing services in downtown Guelph.
The survey will take about 15 to 25 minutes to complete and is available online at wdgpublichealth.ca/druguse-survey. Participants can also enter for a chance to win one of three $50 gift cards. The survey will be open until April 30, 2019.
The survey is anonymous, and no identifying information will be included in our final report.
How you can help
Whether you’re someone who uses drugs or not, you can join in to help reduce harm among those using substances. How?
- Share this post or our survey on social media. Sometimes it’s not obvious who uses drugs—it could be a friend, family member or neighbour—so getting the word out far and wide is helpful.
- Learn more about the complex challenges around substance use, addiction and mental health
- Find out how to talk to a friend or family member about drugs
- Be vocal about your support for local harm reduction services
- Be a champion for reducing stigma
We encourage constructive and respectful dialogue around this topic. When commenting, please remember that people who use drugs are all around us whether we know it or not. Approximately 3 percent of Canadians use illicit substances. They could be your neighbours, family members or friends.