COVID-19 Crisis: Harm Reduction Resources for People who Use Drugs

March 11, 2020

This page is a hub for resources, guidelines, information and news for people who use drugs during the COVID-19 ("coronavirus") pandemic. We will be updating this page with more relevant links as we become aware of them. Please share, disseminate, and alter the information here as needed to fit the needs of your community. If you have information which you believe is crucial to share here, especially in multiple languages, please send it to jakeagliata@inpud.net

For resources directed at harm reduction service providers, please see our other page here.


 

CUSTOMIZABLE LEAFLET FOR PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS

In collaboration with the European Network of People who Use Drugs (EuroNPUD) we have developed a leaflet with the most important tips for people who use drugs, which can also be customized to include national or local information on the availability of harm reduction services during the pandemic. Download the leaflet, with translations in 20 languages and counting, from this Dropbox folder.

 

COMPREHENSIVE HARM REDUCTION TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS

In partnership with Russell Newcombe and Cheryl White (of 3D Research: directors.3dresearch@gmail.com), we have developed several resources containing advice for people who use drugs to follow to avoid COVID-19. These four sets of guidelines cover Harm Reduction Tips for Drug Users to Avoid COVID-19Harm Reduction Advice for Heroin/Opioid Users on Avoiding COVID19Harm Reduction Tips for Avoiding COVID19 while Drug Dealing and Harm Reduction Tips for Avoiding COVID19 when Buying Drugs

We have worked with 3D Research to produce four sets of leaflets containing all of this advice. These resources can be easily printed in color or black & white and are intended to be disseminated amongst peer-led networks and harm reduction service providers. 

The following guidelines were also comprised by 3D Research when the pandemic first broke out and contain comprehensive advice for all people who use drugs to consider. Thanks to our colleagues over at Talking Drugs and Drug Policy Network South East Europe these tips are also available in the following languages: 

French | Spanish | Portuguese | Polish | Italian | Russian | SerbianGeorgian | Romanian


 

1) DON'T SHARE pipes, bongs, vapes or joints, nasal tubes (for inhaling/snorting), and all injecting equipment (including sterilized water)

2) If you've got the money, try to STOCK UP on your drugs of choice before things deteriorate much further

3) If you are a client of drug substitution programs (ie: methadone maintenance/tapering, heroin, Suboxone/Bup, stimulants, marijuana etc.), and particularly if you have a pre-existing condition that makes you more vulnerable to infection, ask your doctor if you can GET A 3 MONTH TAKE-HOME PRESCRIPTION (meaning you don't have to go to the pharmacy to get new doses after your first collection). Also, ask if you can skip doctor appointments and urine testing for at least the next three months.

4) If you have an opiate habit and are currently using the illegal drug trade to obtain your drugs, BE PREPARED TO GO THROUGH INVOLUNTARY WITHDRAWAL if your dealer(s) gets sick. Have backup plans that include increasing the number of dealers you can score off of, getting medical help (i.e. drug substitution programs) and make sure you have all the necessary medications, food and drinks (especially protein-based and electrolyte boosting liquids) you will need to detox off opiates (similar steps can be taken by those with habits to other drug types)

5) STOCK UP ON DRUG USING EQUIPMENT/MATERIALS and get enough to last you at least 3 - 4 weeks (longer if you are high risk for infection and if programs can manage it)

6) WIPE DOWN drug packages/wraps with alcohol-based cleansers after your dealer drops them off or once you've picked them up (a minimum 60% alcohol concentration has been shown to effectively kill the virus). If your dealers are in the habit of carrying drugs in their mouths ask them if they can change this habit during this outbreak - if they won't, be careful handling the packages and do the cleaning as advised above. Remember that anti-bacterial washes don't kill viruses but can be better than nothing, especially if they contain alcohol

7) AVOID PUTTING DRUG BAGS/WRAPS IN YOUR MOUTH, VAGINA OR ANUS. If you must carry it in your body, clean vigorously with an alcohol-based cleanser both before and after you take it out, and if carried in your mouth use an alcohol-based mouthwash afterwards

8) WASH YOUR HANDS with soap and hot water vigorously for at least 20 seconds (but longer if you can) every time you come into contact with others, after handling money and after you get your drugs packages. Paper towels are preferred for drying hands, or at least use a clean towel

9) PREPARE YOUR DRUGS YOURSELF and ensure that you don't handle or touch other people's equipment/drugs and don't let them touch yours

10) If you have symptoms or think you're getting sick, AVOID GOING TO YOUR LOCAL HR PROGRAMS - HAVE THEM DELIVER TO YOU and tell them you are unwell so they can take the necessary precautions for their safety

11) Be prepared for the POSSIBILITY OF NEEDLE EXCHANGES AND DRUG TREATMENT PROGRAMS CLOSING DOWN (and possibly drug detoxes) and follow steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 to reduce any problems related to running out of supplies or equipment

12) SMOKERS of heroin and other drugs need to be aware that COVID19 infection could make it difficult or painful to inhale smoke or vapour. Drug users should be prepared to find other ways of taking their drugs of choice including eating and snorting it as well as injecting it up the bum with a needleless syringe.  If available, opiate users should ensure they have Naloxone and know how to administer it – teach those around you how to as well

13) Remember that people with compromised immune systems, lung diseases and other pre-existing conditions are more at risk of contracting COVID19 and help keep them safe by keeping yourself safe - follow these and other harm reduction tips to help you achieve this goal.

3D Research have also developed these additional guidelines addressing the specific harm reduction Tips for opiate users/smokers in relation to COVID19


 

COVID-19 EMERGENCY FUNDING

These funders are seeking to support community-based projects that address specific challenges faced by people who use drugs and other key populations during the pandemic.

OutRight Action International has set up a COVID-19 LGBTIQ Emergency Response Fund with grants between $2,500 - $10,000 USD to registered and unregistered organisations. The grants can be used for any emergency occuring as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. 

MAC AIDS Fund is dedicating $10 million towards organisations helping people at high risk during the pandemic. 

Gilead has created a global grantee fund to provide financial support to current grantees facing an imminent closure or termination of vital services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Urgent Action Fund is providing Rapid Response Grants open to human rights defenders/activists or organisations led by women or trans activists.

Women's Peace & Humanitarian Fund has opened a new funding window for local women's organisations responding to COVID-19 in their communities.

Frontline AIDS is accepting applications for their Emergency Response Grants, open to organisations that are led by or with with LGBT people and/or men who have sex with men (MSM). 

ProtectDefenders.eu has an application to apply for an emergency grant open to human rights defenders.

Frontline Defenders is still processing protection grant applications for human rights defenders at risk.

Aidsfond launched a COVID Response Fund set up to support existing grantees and partners with flexible, rapid and short-term funding for activities that mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on people living with or vulnerable to HIV.

Gilead has announced a new philanthropic fund to support nonprofit organisations impacted by the COVID-19 Crisis


 

Here are some additional resources created and shared by other allies, peers, and stakeholders:

Italian Network of People who Use Drugs (ItaNPUD): Suggerimenti per la Riduzione del Danno per #COVID19

Chemical Sisters: Powerpoint Slides with Useful Information to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic (English | Italiano )

MPact Global: COVID-19: 10 Tips for LGBTI Advocates Worldwide

GNP+: Lessons Learned from the HIV response for COVID-19: Building Community Resilience

Youth RISE: A Message for Young People who Use Drugs

Life4Me: Questions and Answers about COVID-19 for People Living with HIV

SpeakEasy Podcast: Interview with NUAA (New South Wales User and AIDS Association) Deputy CEO Charles Henderson discussing harm reduction for people using drugs during COVID-19

Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network & Maggie's Toronto Sex Workers Action Project: Sex work COVID-19: Guidelines for Sex Workers, Clients, Third Parties, and Allies

COVID-19 Mutual Aid & Advocacy Resources (designed for the US but applicable internationally as well)

The Global Fund: COVID-19 Situation Reports, and Human Rights in the time of COVID-19

EpiC: Strategic Considerations for Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 on Key Population-Focused HIV Programs 

UNAIDS: Rights in the time of COVID-19 - Lessons from HIV for an effecive, community-led response

UNODC: COVID-19 Prevention and Control Among People who Use Drugs

Metzineres: COVID 19 Harm Reaction. A Metzis no volem Corona (includes shareable images in English)

HRVic: COVID-19 and You: Some Things You should Know for People who Use Drugs or are on Pharmacotherapy

Coyote RI: COVID-19 Sex Worker Harm Reduction Resources (US based)

Harm Reduction Coalition: COVID-19 Guidance for People who Use Drugs and Harm Reduction Programs

Transform Drug Policy Foundation: Coronavirus and drug harm reduction

AFEW: Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak

American Society of Addiction Medicine: Coronavirus Resources (specific to the United States)

Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective: Pod Mapping for Mutual Aid

Arild Knutsen (via DrugReporter): An Open Letter on Covid-19 and People who Use Drugs

Energy Control: Fiesta y drogas en tiempos de coronavirus (VIDEO)

Human Rights Watch: Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19 Response