Splitting and sharing at overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites: What we learned

Close-ups of prescription pills

In 2020, Health Canada started to hold consultation meetings with key stakeholders to review federal regulations governing overdose prevention sites (OPS) and supervised consumption sites (SCS). While multiple recommendations and suggestions were brought forward, one that was repeatedly identified by people who use drugs and other stakeholders as being of top concern was the inability to split and share drugs within OPS/SCS settings.

Splitting and sharing implies acquiring, separating and/or transferring drugs between individuals, a common practice among people who use drugs. However, it is currently prohibited within federally exempted OPS/SCS settings. We wanted to know firsthand from people who use drugs and OPS/SCS operators the impacts of this restriction.

To explore this topic, members of the Urgent Public Health Need Site (UPHNS) Community of Practice and the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs (CAPUD) formed a working group to survey 140 respondents across Canada who either use OPS/SCS or work at these sites as service providers. The collected responses from the online survey offered insights into the impact of this specific restriction on both staff and people who use drugs.

Author Bios

Nick Pineau is a law student at McGill University who completed a human rights internship with the HIV Legal Network. His work with the Network focused on drug policy, including a comparative analysis of harm reduction efforts in Canada and Russia and research on reducing barriers to supervised consumption services.

Sandra Ka Hon Chu is the co-executive director at the HIV Legal Network. She works on HIV-related human rights issues concerning prisons, harm reduction, sex work, women, and immigration.

Matthew Bonn is the program coordinator at the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, an international board member of the International Network of Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU), a national board member of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. He is also the co-founder of the HaliFIX Overdose Prevention Society and a Canadian editorial consultant for Filter, a harm reduction magazine based out of New York City. The pictures in this blog post were taken by Matthew.

Corey Ranger is the clinical nurse lead for AVI/SOLID’s safe supply project, the Victoria SAFER Initiative. He has a history of working in harm reduction in both Alberta and now in British Columbia, having focused on HIV and hepatitis C programming, overdose prevention and supervised consumption services.

Natasha Touesnard is the executive director of the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs, a national organization comprised entirely of people who use(d) drugs. Prior to this role, she was the site coordinator and lead case manager at the Open Door Clinic, a family practice and opioid agonist treatment clinic located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Additionally, Natasha was among several local people who use(d) drugs who formed the first drug user group in the Atlantic provinces, the Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People (HANDUP) where she held the role of project coordinator for a number of years.