Civic Engagement

As someone who is in recovery from multiple substance use disorders, I am passionate about promoting harm reduction strategies like needle distribution, naloxone training, and safe consumption sites. Currently, British Columbia is in the midst of an overdose crisis and stigma regarding substance use is blocking the implementation of these life-saving strategies. As a writer, I feel it’s my duty to help break the stigmas associated with substance use and harm reduction so substance users can receive the medical care and services they deserve. Below are two pieces which attempt to do so. 

Harm reduction: Keeping substance users safe 

Published by The Navigator and Island Crisis Care Society

In this 3500-word feature, I explore the philosophy of harm reduction by sharing my experience as an intravenous substance user and by interviewing harm reduction experts like Dr. Bernie Pauly. It was a difficult piece to write—I talk frankly about injecting a substance for the first time, my struggles with anxiety, depression, and suicide, and the grim realities for substance users who don’t have access to harm reduction strategies. The piece was also very rewarding to write. In addition to talking about my struggles, I talk about how having access to new needles potentially saved my life and kept me alive long enough to enter a treatment facility. After the piece was published, I had several people tell me, including some in the mental health field, that it changed their mind on harm reduction.   

Harris House Health Clinic, a harm reduction clinic in Nanaimo. For the piece, I interviewed Harris House’s head nurse, Sandy Mclean.

How to talk about substance use

Published by The Navigator

In this 700-word feature, I explore the stigma associated with substance use and substance users. I list words and phrases that perpetuate stigma and provide alternatives that better reflect the medical nature of substance use disorders.

As much as this piece is about informing the public, I also achieved personal growth writing it. Through the research I conducted, I found that I sometimes used stigmatizing language myself. Now, I know the proper alternatives.