Harm Reduction & Critical Drug Studies

This Research Exchange Group held its first meeting in  2015 in an effort to promote collaboration, networking and research opportunities among people whose interests include mental health and addiction/treatment policy and practice, with particular emphasis on harm reduction and the inclusion of people with lived experience of drug use as consultants in, and key informants of such research.  

To identify priority research and policy issues relating to substance use, harm reduction, and addiction treatment/recovery services across Newfoundland and Labrador, the group aims to:

  • create a space for networking and making new connections between researchers, service providers, policy makers and drug/service users;
  • work towards establishing an independent user-run, user-led group in St. John’s, made up of past and present, active and recovering drug users that can provide peer-led consulting and training services for researchers, government agencies, policy makers, and social service agencies that work with people who use drugs;
  • draw from the popular drug user activist mantra ‘nothing about us without us,’ and actively include people with lived experience of substance use and/or dependence in every aspect of the policies and programs that affect their everyday lives;
  • increase awareness among professionals (i.e. researchers, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, policy makers, etc.) and the larger public regarding the fundamentally important role of both (1) recognizing the value of lived experience and experiential knowledge of people who use drugs, and (2) situating people who use drugs at the heart of harm reduction, from policy development to service delivery;
  • research ways to reduce and eradicate public and professional misunderstanding and stigma concerning substance use and people who use drugs;
  • help bring together a diverse array of different perspectives, insights, and voices to work together for change, in the fields of harm reduction and critical drug studies, both across Newfoundland and Labrador, and throughout Atlantic Canada.


October 28, 2020| 2pm NST | Public Health, Harm Reduction, Drug Policy & People Who Inject Drugs (PWID)  Dr. Christopher Smth of Memorial UNiversity's School of Social Work will present the findings from the single largest, most significant collection of data concerning the health of People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) in Newfoundland and Labrador to date. Sponsored by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Tracks PWID measures health status, harm reduction, drug treatment service uptake, and substance use trends among PWID from coast to coast. Since it was piloted in 1992, Tracks PWID has become the largest ongoing national-level study among people who inject drugs in Canada. Results from the study will be used to enhance and improve public health, harm reduction, treatment, and other areas of policy related to PWID, expand substance use education, and develop new programs and interventions to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.  The year 2018 marked the start of Phase 4 of the project, representing the first time that NL has ever been included as a data collection site in the 17-year history of this study.  Following extensive interviews with over 100 PWID in St. John’s and Corner Brook, the results from Tracks PWID Phase 4 in NL have now been analyzed, forming the a highly significant collection of data concerning people who use drugs in NL.

November, 2020  (Date TBA): Update from Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy Group | Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) at Memorial University is part of a national and international grassroots network of students working to improve safety and advance social justice in their communities. CSSDP provides students and community members with harm reduction information and supplies, and works to change policies, reduce stigma, equip our community with tools to keep each other safe, and foster critical dialogue about alternatives to drug prohibition and mass incarceration. CSSDP is committed to ending the War on Drugs and takes a public health approach to substance use, recognizing the inherent dignity, worth, and human rights of People Who Use Drugs. CSSDP recognizes how drug policy and substance use intersect with various forms of oppression—and aligns itself with struggles for liberation; anti-racism and decolonization; social, economic, gender, and disability justice; drug decriminalization and legalization; and police and prison abolition, asserting that justice and change are inevitable


March 5 2020 at 12:30pm | Jane Henderson B.A., B.Ed., M.A, Harm Reduction Consultant - Provincial Opioid Dependence Treatment (ODT) program and Centre of Excellence, Harm Reduction 101 and Wayne Bishop, Program Director of the ODT Centre of Excellence on the Hub and Spoke Model for Mental Health and Addictions Programs in NL and the services offered through the ODT Centre of Excellence for people with opioid addictions.

November 26, 2019 | Looking into the Rabbit Hole: The Psychedelic Renaissance Re-tracing the role of discourse, policy, and socio-cultural factors in the transformation of psychedelic substances from ‘social evil’ to critical tools in contemporary mental health treatment.   Sachin Rajeev spoke about a proposed interdisciplinary Ph.D. project looking at psychedelic substances and associated discourses (consumption practices, addiction, operations of power, meaning-making practices etc.)

November 20, 2018 | An Update from the Opioid Dependence Treatment Working Group a sub-group of the Service Re-Design Project Team under the Towards Recovery: The Action Plan for Mental Health and Addictions in Newfoundland and Labrador. The group is comprised of persons with lived experience, community organizations, regulatory organizations, professional associations, regional health authority staff and government departments. The Opioid Dependency Treatment Working Group is working towards a new provincial model of treatment for opioid dependence. Group Chair, Debbie Curtis discussed the model and its focus on the need to improve access to treatment and harm reduction services throughout the province.

March 22, 2018| Getting On With It: A Pragmatic Approach to Harm Reduction at The Gathering Place | Kieran O'Connell 

January 25, 2018 | Pushing the Point: Interdisciplinary peer training and overdose prevention

April 7, 2017 | Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) 

October 6, 2016 | IDU Study | Christopher Smith and Tree Walsh on a large-scale, mixed-methods, collaborative needs research project that aims to conduct a critical interdisciplinary assessment of the needs of injection drug users (IDU)) in the greater St. John’s area. Tree and Christopher  discussed the background and context of IDU in NL, followed by an explanation of several key aspects of the project, including the recruitment of research participants, the qualitative and quantitative data collection being employed in the project, as well as how the data will be analyzed and used to improve policies and programs for IDU. 

February 11th, 2016| The Intoxication of Narcotic Modernity | At this meeting, the group launched Dr. Christopher Smith’s new book “Addiction, Modernity, and the City: A Users’ Guide to Urban Space © 2016 – Routledge. 

March 24, 2016 | Abigail Sheppard, Shelter Services Coordinator, ACNL, on Homelessness and Housing Programs at ACNL 

April 21, 2016| Jill Peckford, BSW RSW, Program Manager, Naomi Centre of Stella’s Circle: Shelter Services for Young Women |  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMeJsFEXcWI

September 24, 2015| Christopher Smith on harm reduction as anarchist practice
October 29, 2015| Tree Walsh, ACNL (AIDS Committee NL) on her work with the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP)

November 26, 2015 | Dan McGettigan on his work with Turnings, a program designed to help former inmates readjust to life outside prison.


Newfoundland & Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000