Substance use health and harm reduction


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 other substances.

While not using substances altogether has the lowest risk, if you are using 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. Benzodiazepines are also increasingly mixed into these 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. If you want to request a workshop on this topic you can do so from UBC Wellness Centre and AMS Peer Support.

Fentanyl test strips

Test strips for drug checking can look for fentanyl in a small amount of a substance mixed in water.

Use the Harm Reduction Resources List and Map to find out where you can pick up free and anonymous fentanyl test strips. You can also access 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
  • AMS Peer Support, Room 3125, on the third floor of the AMS Nest
  • Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), Room 3130, on the third floor of the 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.

Drug checking services are available at UBC Vancouver at the UBC Life Building in Room 1505, from 1:00 to 6:00 pm. Check back for which dates these services will be available.

Drug checking is done with FTIR spectrometers and test strips to analyze any drug or substance. It is anonymous and free. Testing is provided by Get Your Drugs Tested.

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. To find out how to respond, take the First Aid for the Toxic Drug Supply Canvas course.

Naloxone kits

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

All kits are free and anonymous for people 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 Wellness Centre

Drop in test strip and naloxone kit pick up and training are available weekly at the Wellness Centre, Room 1400 in the Life Building every Wednesday and Friday from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

Training consists of going over the components of the kit, signs of fentanyl drug poisoning, and how to use the kit.

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.

The intentional use of substances to facilitate sexual assault

Using drugs, including alcohol, to deliberately create a situation in which a person is incapacitated (and therefore cannot give consent) in order to pursue sexual contact or attention is substance-facilitated sexual assault.

Find out what to do if you think someone may have done this to you, if you're trying to help others who may have experienced or could experience this, or if you think you or someone you know may have caused someone harm.

Learn more

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 further reflect on your relationship with substances. 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 student 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, Naloxone training for individuals and groups, fentanyl test strip distribution, 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. 

24/7 services

  • Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service
    Call for free, confidential information, or receive a referral to education, prevention, and treatment services for any type of substance use concerns.
  • UBC Student Assistance Program by Aspiria
    Receive free, 24/7 personal counselling and life coaching, accessible anywhere in the world through phone, video-counselling, or e-counselling.
  • Wellness Together Canada
    If you're a Canadian student, complete a free mental health online assessment and connect to online wellness resources. You can also get counselling by phone, text, or video.