Substance use and harm reduction

Overview

A drug is any substance that causes a change in someone’s mental, emotional, or physical state.This includes many illegal drugs such as stimulants, psychedelics, opioids and amphetamines.

All substance use carries some risk, making it important to consider its short-term and long-term effects on your wellbeing as a student. When using illegal substances that have few or no regulations, you won’t know whether the substance you bought is what you think it is, or is mixed with another substance. 

While not using substances at all has the lowest risk, if you are using alcohol or other drugs, you can make a plan to reduce possible harms.

Harm reduction for fentanyl and accidental drug poisoning

Fentanyl, an opioid, is a strong painkiller that is being mixed into illegal drugs in Vancouver. A very small amount of fentanyl can be fatal. Fentanyl has been found in all illegal drugs.

If you use or intend to use illegal drugs, consider the following:

Find out more by taking the First Aid for the Toxic Drug Supply Canvas course.

Fentanyl test strips

Test strips for drug checking can look for fentanyl in a small amount of a substance mixed in water. Free fentanyl test strips are available at the following UBC locations:
Free fentanyl test strips are available at the following UBC locations:

  • AMS Resource Groups Lobby on the second floor in the AMS Nest beside the Hatch Art Gallery on the resource table upon entry
  • Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), Room 3130, on the third floor of AMS Nest, on the resource table outside the centre
  • Nurse on Campus booths in the UBC Life Building during the academic year. Nurses can show you how they work if you need a demonstration. 
  • UBC Wellness Centre front desk, room 1400 in the UBC Life Building

Drug checking

Drug checking provides life-saving information about the harmful and even deadly contaminants that drugs may contain, such as fentanyl.

Find drug-checking services in British Columbia, including safer consumption sites and drug alerts.

Responding to accidental drug poisoning

If you or someone you are with needs to call for help to respond to accidental drug poisoning, even if you have any substances on you, you are protected by the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act.

This Act makes sure that people who have illegal drugs with them will not be arrested or charged if they call for help for someone experiencing accidental drug poisoning. 

Naloxone kits

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse accidental drug poisoning from fentanyl. Several UBC locations offer free naloxone kits.

All kits are confidentially distributed and freely available for those who could experience accidental drug poisoning from the toxic drug supply in British Columbia, or those who might witness a family member or friend experience drug poisoning.

UBC Student Health Service

Call Student Health Service to book an appointment and ask to see a nurse for naloxone training. Many appointment times are offered throughout the week. These appointments are anonymous and confidential. You do not need to provide your real name and the appointment will not show on your medical or student record. You can book an individual or group appointment.

The nurse will go over the components of the kit, signs of an overdose, and how to use the kit. They will also provide practice using the ampule and syringe (needle) to increase familiarity with it.

AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre

Drop by during opening hours and get training and a kit from the staff at the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) on the third floor of the AMS Nest, to the right of the main elevators.

British Columbian pharmacies

If you are looking for a Naloxone kit immediately, you can take an online Naloxone training and/or pick up a kit at any BC pharmacy.

When to seek help for substance use

You may want to seek help if substance use is impacting your day-to-day life and success as a student.

Consider the following questions:

  • Has substance use been affecting your grades, learning, or finances?
  • Has substance use affected your ability to attend classes or labs, complete coursework, or participate in group meetings?
  • Has substance use affected your relationships or responsibilities with friends, family or partner(s)?
  • Do you feel guilty about your substance use?
  • Have you tried and been unsuccessful in cutting down on your use of substances?

If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to reflect on your relationship with substances some more. You can find support options and other resources below.

Apps and interactive resources

These websites and apps have been carefully chosen by health professionals at UBC. They’re easy and accessible tools you can use at any time, to help you learn more about substance use.

  • HealthLink BC
    Call 811 at any time during the day to get information on substance use and support. 
  • Here to Help
    Download a workbook to help you reflect on your substance use.
  • Toward the Heart
    Get more information about the opioid overdose crisis, fentanyl and naloxone, including where to pick up a naloxone kit across BC.
  • Foundry
    Find alcohol and substance use self-check tools and learn about different types of substances.
  • TAO Self-Help
    Sign up with your UBC alumni email for tools to help you reflect on your substance use.

Peer support

It might be easier to talk with a trained student about substance use. They may understand what you’re going through and can offer helpful resources.

  • UBC Student Recovery Community
    The UBC Student Recovery Community (SRC) is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive space for students who are in recovery, or curious to explore their relationship with alcohol, drugs, and/or addictive behaviours. 
  • AMS Peer Support
    Get free, confidential one-on-one peer support, peer support group sessions, and workshops on mental health and harm reduction.

Professional help

If your substance use is persistent and negatively impacting your life, you can also contact a health professional.

  • Access and Assessment Centre
    Call or visit in person for emergency or non-emergency mental health and substance use services.
  • UBC Counselling Services
    If you’re struggling with substance use to the point that it’s affecting your daily life, it may be helpful to speak with a Wellness Advisor about your concerns.
  • UBC Student Health Service
    Book a medical appointment for your substance use concerns or to learn more about preventing an opioid overdose. 

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