A new report has been released by the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council (WRCPC) that provides new insight and opportunities to prevent accidental overdoses and to reduce related individual and community harms.
It comes after the WRCPC spoke with people who regularly use unregulated drugs, and lack stable housing in Kitchener.
The issues that were considered in this report include the activities needed to fund purchases, and consumption. Those who participated in the research identified significant harms that have been exasperated by criminalization.
The report suggests that most who support a safe supply initiative that would help stabilize and decriminalize the withdrawal, acquisition, purchase, and consumption cycle. The report also states that participants felt there would be immediate benefits for themselves, and the community if a program like safe supply would be implemented.
100 per cent of the people who participated in the research have said that they have witnessed an overdose emergency at least once, and most have experienced at least one overdose emergency. They said that unregulated markets have become more uncertain, toxic, and expensive, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
77 per cent of respondents said they have regularly consumed fentanyls by inhaling/smoking. 51 per cent said they are regularly using both opioids and stimulants. Most responded suggesting they have tried addiction medication such as methadone or buprenorphine.
The report also suggests the average amount spent on unregulated drugs was around $120 per person, per day. 46 per cent also suggested that they have committed criminal code offences daily in an effort to fund the management of withdrawal symptoms, that's excluding possession offences.
Respondents stated incarceration of those who use unregulated drugs is common, but not desired and doesn't deter them from using. The research outlined that respondents have been jailed an average of 12 times each so far. 91 per cent said they have been victimized since the pandemic was declared with 86 per cent of incidents going unreported to police.
Most who participated in the research said that they would benefit from immediate decriminalizing interventions such as safe supply initiatives, and having an established shelter option permitting supervised consumption by inhalation, and injection.