COVID-19 Harm Reduction for Substance Users
The following is harm reduction information for people who use substances in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Risk of overdose
- COVID-19 is a virus that can cause a respiratory infection and other health problems.
- Fentanyl and other opioids can slow your breathing rate, so COVID-19 may increase the risk of overdose death when using opioids.
Practice safer drug use
- Do not share supplies, such as cigarettes, joints, pipes, injecting equipment, containers for alcohol, utensils, and other supplies. If you have to share, wipe pipes with alcohol wipes or use new mouthpieces.
- Reduce close contact (e.g. shaking hands, hugging, kissing) and ensure condom use.
- Wash your hands or use wipes before preparing, handling or using your drugs. Prepare your drugs yourself.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use tissues. Throw tissues away immediately and wash your hands thoroughly.
- Clean surfaces with soap and water, alcohol wipes, bleach or hydrogen peroxide before preparing drugs if possible.
- Carry naloxone and have an overdose plan. Please use breathing masks available in the Take Home Naloxone kits if responding to an overdose.
- Buddy up when you are using. COVID-19 is passed by droplets. Stay 2 metres (6.5 ft.) from your buddy to avoid passing the virus. Using with a buddy is safer than using alone.
- Find your “buddies” who can bring you food, harm reduction supplies, medicine, and substances so that you can stay well. You can also be a buddy to those who may need extra support. Check in on your buddies regularly.
- For most up to date information, see Testing or use the Self-Assessment Tool on the BCCDC page.
- If you are quarantined or in isolation see if your buddy can pick up supplies including naloxone from a harm reduction site.
- Try to have the substances you need to stay well. Know that carrying large amounts may put you at risk by the police and other people looking to score. Consider alternatives to your drug of choice and prepare for potential supply disruptions.
- You may go through involuntary withdrawal if your dealer gets sick. Have backup plans and be cautious if using a new supply.
- Try to have the medications you need, re-fills may be available directly through your pharmacist or by phone without having to see your physician. If you are feeling unwell and require medications, call your pharmacy in advance.
- Health Canada is working on exemptions to ensure access to OAT and other medicines. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you share a washroom with others, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as knobs, taps, and flushers with soap and water, bleach, hydrogen peroxide or alcohol-based wipes (70%) after every use. Do not mix different types of cleaning solutions.
- If you cannot wash your hands with soap or use hand sanitizer, try to access alcohol-based hand wipes