COVID-19 Crisis: Harm Reduction Resources for People who Use Drugs
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 email@example.com.
For resources directed at harm reduction service providers, please see our other page here.
In collaboration with the European Network of People who Use Drugs (EuroNPUD) we have also 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. Download the leaflet in English here - translations into other languages are in the works.
Comprehensive Harm Reduction Tips for People who Use Drugs
The guidelines below were developed by Russell Newcombe and Cheryl White (of 3D Research: firstname.lastname@example.org) to inform the global community of people who use drugs on important harm reduction tips to practice during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to our colleagues over at Talking Drugs and Drug Policy Network South East Europe these tips are also available in the following languages:
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.
In addition to these guidelines, here are some additional resources created and shared by other stakeholders:
Italian Network of People who Use Drugs (ItaNPUD): Suggerimenti per la Riduzione del Danno per #COVID19
MPact Global: COVID-19: 10 Tips for LGBTI Advocates Worldwide
Youth RISE: A Message for Young People who Use Drugs
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
Metzineres: COVID 19 Harm Reaction. A Metzis no volem Corona (includes shareable images in English)
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
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
Human Rights Watch: Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19 Response