Ontario Harm Reduction Network

The Ontario Harm Reduction Network (OHRN) supports harm reduction efforts in Ontario by providing training, networking opportunities and consultations to service providers and agencies.

A message from OHRN

Hello OHRN stakeholders & friends,

We welcome the New Year with mixed feelings. We carry the grief of the past year as we face further uncertainty in the year ahead. At the same time, we feel some relief that 2020 is over and that COVID-19 vaccines have been developed. We also celebrate the ways that people who use drugs, service providers and advocates have continued the work of harm reduction. So let us wish you a Hopeful New Year – one of community, solidarity, and love.

Upcoming and Ongoing

COVID-19 Survey for People Who Use Drugs

The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs have recently launched a survey! They want to learn more about how people who use drugs are accessing harm reduction, STBBI and other health services during COVID-19. The survey takes 15 minutes to complete and can be accessed here. We encourage you to share this with your networks and community members. All Canadians over the age of 18 and who have used drugs or alcohol in the last 6 months are eligible to respond. CAPUD have also created a Facebook page for the survey as well.

Coming Soon!

OHRDP in collaboration with OHRN is excited to introduce: "Connecting – A Guide to Using Harm Reduction Supplies as Engagement Tools."  Stay tuned for the release of this guide, which will be available on OHRN’s website.
Poster for 'Connecting: A guide to using harm reduction supplies as engagement tools'
Voices from the field
In October 2019, the Ontario Harm Reduction Network brought together a network of harm reduction and Hepatitis C (HCV) outreach workers for a two-day Symposium on issues related to harm reduction. 

We didn’t know it would be one of the last times we would hold these conversations in-person before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Nonetheless, we took the opportunity to interview front-line workers, to share their thoughts and experiences of the work, and to share their stories with our broader community. These perspectives are more relevant than ever.

All outreach workers in this video series are members of The Outreach Network (TON), a network of harm reduction outreach workers and HCV workers from across Ontario funded by the AIDS Bureau at the Ontario Ministry of Health, and coordinated through the Ontario Harm Reduction Network.
See a preview of these videos
Lisa Toner
Community Outreach Coordinator
Réseau ACCESS Network | Sudbury
Gregory Bell
Harm Reduction Worker, Regent Park CHC
Member of Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance (THRA),
Toronto Drug Users Union | Toronto
Harm reduction through COVID19
photo of Derrick Black by Jeff Bierk

Life in Moss Park

Encampments have sprung up across the city this winter. People like Derrick Black, the self-proclaimed mayor of Moss Park (pictured here), would rather live outdoors than risk getting Covid in a shelter.
Here are some of their stories.

Webinar Recording: The Ontario overdose crisis and the impact of COVID-19

This webinar explored what various data sources in public health, drug surveillance and harm reduction can tell us about overdose and drug use trends in Ontario so far. Wediscussed what this means for service providers and public health, and what we can expect going forward.  This webinar was a partnership between the Ontario Harm Reduction Network, the Ontario Harm Reduction Distribution Program and CATIE.
See more info and view recording.
Data and Reports
cartoon Image from Toronto's drug checking service

What’s in Toronto’s drug supply? Results from samples checked by Toronto’s drug checking service: September 1 – December 31, 2020

Key findings

  • 847 samples were checked: 58% (489) were substances and 42% (358) were used paraphernalia
  • 72% of samples checked were expected to be fentanyl, cocaine, or methamphetamine
  • 79% of expected fentanyl samples contained one or more benzodiazepine or benzodiazepine-related drug
  • The benzodiazepine-related drug deschloroetizolam, which is less potent than etizolam, presented for the first time in expected fentanyl samples
  • 40% of expected cocaine samples contained phenacetin and 36% contained levamisole
  • Four alerts were released on noteworthy drugs. Noteworthy drugs are known to be potent, linked to overdose and adverse effects, or may not be desired by some clients:
    •  Xylazine (tranquilizer approved only for animals) presented for the first time in expected fentanyl samples in October and presented regularly since 
    • AMB-FUBINACA (synthetic cannabinoid-related drug) resurfaced in expected fentanyl samples in September
    • Carfentanil presented in 2% of expected fentanyl samples during this time period

Toronto's drug checking service offers people who use drugs timely and detailed information on the contents of their drugs using the most sophisticated lab-based technologies. Interact with our drug checking data online – it’s updated every other week. Sign up to receive reports, alerts, and other information on Toronto’s unregulated drug supply.

How Structural Violence, Prohibition, and Stigma Have Paralyzed North American Responses to Opioid Overdose

Mark Tyndall, MD, ScD and Zoë Dodd, MES

As of 2020, North America is now into the fifth year of an unprecedented increase in drug overdose deaths driven by a toxic, unpredictable, and unregulated drug supply. While the genesis and drivers of and response to the opioid overdose crisis have wide regional variations, structural violence, prohibitions against illicit drug use, and stigma consistently play a central role. The criminalization of users of illicit drugs has led directly not only to users’ incarceration, but also to their marginalization and isolation and to violence, entrenched poverty, and a vicious cycle of trauma. This policy has created an environment wherein any initiatives to prevent and reverse overdoses have been severely restricted. While a war on drugs and the people who use them has been widely criticized as destructive and unwinnable, the criminal policies that support the war on drugs have not changed even in response to this unprecedented crisis.

Read the full report.

Opioid- and Stimulant-related Harms in Canada, PHAC December 2020

Key Findings 

  • 17,602 apparent opioid toxicity deaths between January 2016 and June 2020
    • 1,628 apparent opioid toxicity deaths occurred between April and June 2020, representing the highest quarterly count since national surveillance began in 2016. This number also represents a 58% increase compared to January to March 2020 (1,029 deaths) and a 54% increase from the same time frame in 2019 (1,059 deaths).
    • In 2020 (January to June), 97% of apparent opioid toxicity deaths were accidental (unintentional).
  • New data on opioid and stimulant toxicity deaths based on six reporting jurisdictions
    • Available information from six provinces and territories indicates a 65% increase in number of deaths involving stimulants from April to June compared to the period from January to March 2020. 98% of those deaths were accidental. 
    • About half (52%) of accidental opioid toxicity deaths in 2020 (January to June) also involved a stimulant, reflecting the polysubstance nature of this crisis.
  • 21,824 opioid-related and 9,869 stimulant-related poisoning hospitalizations occurred from January 2016 to June 2020 in Canada (excluding Quebec)
    • Based on preliminary data, 711 stimulant-related poisoning hospitalizations occurred between April and June 2020, representing a 46% increase compared to January to March 2020 and a 20% increase compared to April to June 2019. Note that stimulant poisoning hospitalizations from January to March 2020 decreased by 8% from the same period in 2019.
Read more findings.

The Global State of Harm Reduction 2020

Harm Reduction International

The Global State of Harm Reduction provides an independent analysis of harm reduction around the world. Now in its the seventh edition, the report is a comprehensive global mapping of harm reduction responses to drug use, HIV and viral hepatitis.
Read the report.

Impact of an unsanctioned safe consumption site on criminal activity, 2010–2019

Peter J. Davidson, Barrot H. Lambdin, Erica N. Browne, Lynn D. Wenger, Alex H. Kral
  • An unsanctioned safe consumption site has operated in the US for over 5 years.
  • Neighborhood crime decreased after the site opened.
  • Concern about safe consumption sites attracting crime was unwarranted.

Harm Reduction Satellite Sites Program Guide & Webinar Recording now available

Safer Use Peer Support Line

Krasman Centre

The Safer Use Peer Support Line is a support and spotting service so that people do not have to use drugs alone.  They have been operating in York Region, but are now encouraging anyone in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to use their service. The Safer Use Peer Support Line is available every night from 10pm-3am at 1-888-233-5633.  

See their flyer and poster.

Three part Crystal Meth Webinar Series from the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy – recording available:

  1. Methamphetamine Effects on Brain and Body w/ Dr. Tim Guimond (recorded Nov 25th, 2021)
  2. Effectively Supporting People Experiencing Crystal Meth Related Psychosis w/ Sanda Kazazic (recorded Dec 2nd, 2021)
  3. Promising Practices: Amplifying the Participant Voice Webinar (recorded Dec 9th, 2021)
Access all three recordings.

How to regulate stimulants: A practical guide

Transform Drug Policy Foundation

The ‘war on drugs’ has been a global disaster leading to violence, exploitation and record numbers of drug-related deaths. We all recognise the need to do things differently. In this book we show why the responsible regulation of stimulant drugs is the only realistic alternative, and set out the practical steps to getting the market under control.

Visit the Transform Drug Policy Foundation site to download the guide.


Notice of intent to amend the Food and Drug Regulations and the Narcotic Control Regulations to restore potential access to restricted drugs through Health Canada’s Special Access Program

The publication of this notice of intent in the Canada Gazette, Part I, initiates a 60-day comment period that will end on February 10, 2021. See Health Canada information to submit comments.
Leaked FBI Report: Drug Sellers Practice Harm Reduction - Filtermag, December 2, 2020
The Alberta Model: Who benefits from the Alberta government’s shift away from harm reduction to abstinence-only recovery - The Progress Report, December 18, 2020
Stigma Makes Life Worse for Youth Meth Users, Study Finds: BC report calls for new measures to deal with damage done by stereotypes and lack of supports and treatment options. - The Tyee, January 5, 2021
Report available online.
OHRN Director Nick Boyce was quoted in: She’s lost two brothers to opioids. Amid record deaths, she and others are pleading for change - The Toronto Star, January 9, 2021 
Fact or Fiction: Will decriminalizing and regulating illegal drugs save lives in Ontario? - Global News, January 13, 2021
From our community partners

News from OHRDP

  • Check out the new OHRDP website at See our new, revamped ‘Find Supplies map search engine. If you would like access to the NSP portal which contains resources  that support the supplies OHRDP distributes, please contact us. Once you have access to the portal, you  can  use the portal chat feature to ask questions or offer feedback about supplies every Wednesday afternoon from 1:00 – 4:00 pm. 
  • We have added two new colours of straws to our inventory, thanks to requests from the TON Outreach Workers. They now come in yellow, blue, orange and green.


The Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance recently brought their exciting preliminary findings from their summer 2020 Party and Play (PnP) survey to the CBRC GBTQ2S Summit, held virtually in  October.
The survey, aimed to reach GBTQ2S guys across the province who participated in party n’ play /sexualized substance use, covers a wide range of topics; however, the presentation itself focuses on questions of particular value to service providers. The key takeaway was the need for culturally competent harm reduction strategies that speak to the diverse needs and identities in the PnP community. 
Watch the 11-minute video to see the full Summit presentation and hear more about what we learned from the survey.
For more information on this and other GMSH PnP resources please


  • Harm reduction peer backpack and vending machine project: This program by the Saskatchewan Health Authority aims to increase the distribution of harm reduction supplies in rural Saskatchewan communities. Peer staff distribute supplies on foot, in a mobile outreach van, and via a harm reduction vending machine. This case study looks at how the program works, why it was developed, lessons learned and more.
  • Peers Assisting and Lending Support (PALS) program: Direction 180 started the PALS program in Halifax, Nova Scotia to help incarcerated people who use substances successfully integrate back into their communities. Direction 180 is a community organization that offers opioid agonist treatment and other harm reduction services. This recent CATIE Blog post describes how the program works and shares recent evaluation data to assess its impact. 
  • CATIE 1990/2020 - Chapter Four: Hepatitis C:  In recognition of CATIE’s 30th anniversary, we asked several individuals to tell the story of HIV and hepatitis C in Canada over the past three decades. Watch the fourth chapter on the developments in hepatitis C, featuring Jodie Albert, Dr. Naveed Janjua, Dr. Hemant Shah, Hugo Bissonnet and Jennifer Broad. All other chapters can be found on our YouTube channel.
Job Postings

Position: Community Cleanup Project Coordinator

Agency: PASAN | City: Toronto
Deadline: January 29, 2021 | See details: Charity Village
Copyright © 2021 Ontario Harm Reduction Network, All rights reserved.

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