What is harm reduction?

Harm reduction is an approach to drug use. 

“In the same way that thinking seat belts are a good idea doesn’t make you pro car crash, being pro-harm reduction doesn’t make you pro drug use.”

It acknowledges:

Drugs are here to stay, and the best way to deal with them is to reduce their risks as opposed to ignoring them altogether.

Drug use is complicated, though some ways of use are clearly safer than others

To deal with this, non-coercive and non-judgemental assistance should be provided.

Users must define the services they would like

The user must take agency in reducing harm in themselves and their peers

Class, race, sex, poverty (and many more factors) affect user vulnerability and capacity for addiction

Drug use has many potentially tragic consequences.

One easily actionable initiative to reduce harm: offer reagent testing alongside one-on-one consultations on safer drug taking.


Many drugs are contaminated with PMA, caffeine, lidocaine, acetaminophen, fentanyl… 

82% of the cocaine in the United States has been cut with levamisole, an agricultural deworming agent that kills white blood cells.


We can reduce the likelihood of students taking drugs contaminated with these adulterants by checking their drugs with chemical reagents. 

Does it work?

Yes. Harm reduction (specifically reagent testing) “show promise and require cautious expansion with evaluation in ways that are adapted to local settings e.g. heroin prescribing, depenalisation, the use of drug consumption rooms and pill testing”.

According to this table, which details a pill testing project in Italy in 2019, 93% of 120 reagent results had the correct result (later confirmed via lab analysis).

With regards to what the information means to drug users:

⅔ will not knowingly take contaminated drugs

30% of substances checked were negative for the expected drug 

21/29 (72%) participants reported that they had no intention of consuming the unidentified substance

“Overall, colorimetric reagents showed a good performance with regard to samples being unadulterated”

56% are aware of the limitations of checking, yet still wanted to check.

Drug checking services are effective in detecting ... dangerous substances such as fentanyl and carfentanil ... shown to reduce the amount of a drug that a person will use.

So, yes. It does work. Drug users will not willingly consume contaminated drugs, reducing the potential risks of drug taking.

Is it needed at McGill?

Once again, yes.

Reason 1: Students demand it

Based on surveys from 18 months ago and two weeks ago, there is a clear and demonstrable demand for this service by students themselves. That is sufficient justification in itself. 


We are here to answer the call.

Not only is there a clear demand for it, but there is a clear demand to perpetuate the service among those who use drugs within our community. It is also clear that students think other students will think it is a good idea, with 86% supporting it.

A second survey found that 97% of students would use the service, and that 100% would use the service anyway despite potential false positives.

Reason 2: Do you want dead students?

Now, aside from the pull of student demand, let’s consider the push factor of a student overdosing and dying. 
In February of 2020, first years in residence detected fentanyl in their MDMA on the way to igloofest. 

They only tested their pills because of reports a local supplier had sold a contaminated pill to a member of the Milton-Parc community and was hospitalised

These students informed their floor fellow, who in turn informed the residence life manager.

The residence life manager refused to alert students, and so the floor fellow had to contact instagram meme pages in order to inform students of a potential threat on their lives (see below).

Reflect on that for a moment. The only way a floor fellow could inform their students that their lives were in potential danger was a meme page on instagram.


Reflect again. Does this seem normal? 


If you perceive this to be alarmist, consider how the Albertan government is being sued for breaching the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for increasing barriers to harm reduction endangering life. 


We can prevent this through Making Drugs More Accurate.  

It’s a matter of time as the world reopens (to a substantially lower quality drug supply) until this happens again. This service is clearly needed and as proven by SSDP Cork (in Ireland), the demand for such services outstrips supply.


Long term

Harm reduction is a panacea. We cannot simply offer reagent testing as a standalone service. 

We will offer personalised, non-judgemental drug taking advice for those who want it.

This is the first step in a multi-stage plan.

A key part of moving the plan forward is the anonymised reagent results. This is critical, so please make sure you give us your result.

Thank you for joining us. This is an important step forward. 

mcgill@cssdp.org

DISCLAIMER

Making Drugs More Accurate is not responsible for what you do with this information. Nor do we recommend drug use and we emphasize all drug use carries risk. 

The information outlined on this website is not exhaustive. We provide a brief description of drugs that are commonly used recreationally, including typical routes of administration, typical doses, common effects and their duration, as well as other helpful information. The effects described are the most commonly reported effects, but because the purity of substances cannot be assured, effects can vary as a result of the potential for contaminants.

Feeling generous? All donations will go to more reagents :)

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