Checking your drugs is one way to reduce the harms associated with using drugs from an unregulated supply. Toronto’s drug checking service is offered alongside other harm reduction services in Toronto, including supervised consumption. These services have the most impact when used together.
Tips to reduce harm
- Carry and be trained to use naloxone. Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a drug that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone can be picked up for free from your local harm reduction agency or pharmacy and free training is available online. Consider carrying multiple doses of naloxone.
- Get your drugs checked before using. In Toronto, drug checking services are offered at Moss Park Consumption and Treatment Service, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (Queen West and Parkdale sites), South Riverdale Community Health Centre, and The Works at Toronto Public Health. You can also check your drugs after you have used them by submitting paraphernalia, like a cooker or a filter. Other drug checking services in Canada include British Columbia Centre on Substance Use Drug Checking Service, Get Your Drugs Tested, and Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project.
- Use at a supervised consumption site or overdose prevention site. Here is a list of sites that offer supervised consumption in Toronto and an interactive map of sites that offer supervised consumption across Canada.
- Use with someone else and take turns spotting for each other. A buddy system is safer than using alone. Stay 6 feet from your buddy if you are not from the same household to avoid passing COVID-19.
- If you must use alone, let someone know before you use. Call someone you know and have them stay on the phone with you while you use. If you are in Ontario, you could call the Overdose Prevention Line at 1-888-853-8542. The National Overdose Response Service is available to anyone in Canada and can be reached at 1-888-688-NORS (6677). BeSafe is an app that can be downloaded on your phone and provides another way to let someone know before you use.
- Do a small test dose first.
- Call 911 in an overdose situation. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides legal protection from drug-related charges for carrying drugs for personal use and other simple possession offences.
- If your drugs did not contain what you were expecting, consider talking to the person you got your drugs from, or get your drugs from another source if possible.
- If you use opioids, learn more about safer supply programs. Safer supply programs provide people who use drugs with prescribed alternatives to opioids obtained from the unregulated supply. Here is an interactive map of sites that operate safer supply projects across Canada and a toolkit to advocate for safer opioid supply programs. Alternatively, you could speak to a health care provider about options like methadone or suboxone. Your local harm reduction agency could likely refer you to methadone or suboxone providers. Or you could try contacting ConnexOntario.
- Visit your local harm reduction agency for free supplies, including safer injection and smoking equipment. Here is a list of harm reduction agencies in Ontario.
- If you are a youth who uses drugs, connect with organizations like the Trip! Project. The Trip! Project is a Toronto-based youth-led harm reduction health information service for the dance music scene and youth who use drugs.
- Stay informed by signing up to receive alerts, reports, and other information on Toronto’s unregulated drug supply from Toronto’s drug checking service. Results from samples checked by Toronto’s drug checking service are combined and shared online every other week. You can also sign up for Toronto Public Health’s mailing list to receive alerts and other drug-related information.
- Act to advance the health, human rights, and dignity of people who use drugs by connecting with and supporting advocacy organizations such as Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance, Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.