Harm Reduction & Critical Drug Studies

Photo of a naloxone kit. It is black with a red cross in the centre.

The Research Exchange Group on Harm Reduction and Critical Drug Studies was established in 2015. The group was created 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.

See Group Activities and Presentations

Group Conveners
  • Jane Henderson, Provincial Opioid Dependence Treatment Centre of Excellence
  • Carolyn Taylor, Eastern Health Mental Health & Addictions, and
  • Ghazia Azam, Graduate Student in Science, Memorial University


Goals & Objectives

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


Join Us

NLCAHR’s Research Exchange Group on Harm Reduction & Critical Drug Studies welcomes anyone with an interest in harm reduction and critical drug studies to join us. Please see our calendar of meetings for information about upcoming webinars or email rochelle.baker@med.mun.ca for more details.


Group Activities & Presentations


February 17 at 12:30pm NST | Safe Supply as a Harm Reduction Approach
"Safe Supply" or "Safer Supply" is a harm reduction approach that provides an alternative to illegal drugs for people who are at significant risk of overdose. Safe Supply services provide quality-controlled pharmaceutical produced substances, like opioids or stimulants, for people who use drugs. They do not include substitution or opioid agonist treatments like methadone. Safe Supply services reduce the risk of overdose from toxic or contaminated drugs. It is an important harm reduction strategy for people who take opioids because of the increase in fentanyl overdoses. It is also an important strategy for connecting people who use drugs to other health and social services. In Canada, British Columbia is phasing in a new policy to expand access to prescribed safer supply, and is the first province in Canada to do so. The Government of Yukon is also working to expand access to a medically prescribed safe supply of opioids to address the opioid crisis in that territory. Safe Supply initiatives have also been launched in the Ontario cities of Toronto, London, and Ottawa. |  About our presenter: Pablo Navarro holds a B. Sc.in Microbiology & Immunology and Psychology from McGill University and a Master’s degree in Community Health & Humanities from Memorial University. He is currently a Senior Research Officer at the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research (NLCAHR), where he works on the Contextualized Health Research Synthesis Program (CHRSP) coordinating projects and helping to develop Integrated Knowledge Translation methodologies. Mr. Navarro collaborates on applied health research initiatives with many community organizations and provincial healthcare organizations, including Health Accord NL’s Social Determinants of Health Committee and the NL Provincial Harm Reduction Cooperative. He has also worked with the Building Healthy Communities Collaborative, the Provincial Wellness Advisory Council, the Evidence Informed Practice Council of Eastern Health, Food First NL, and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind as well as being involved with Common Ground, a community development non-profit corporation, and the Georgestown Neighbourhood Association.

March 4, 2022 at 10:30am NST | A Special Co-Presentation of the  Research Exchange Group on Harm Reduction and Critical Drug Studies and the Provincial Opioid Dependence Treatment Centre of Excellence | The Impact of Childhood Adversity on Health: Looking Through A Harm Reduction Lens with Dr. Meredith Mackenzie of the Street Health Centre in Kingston, Ontario | Individuals who have experienced adverse childhood experiences are at risk of worse health outcomes as adults but these changes in the body and brain are not written in stone. This presentation will look at the impact of adversity on health and well-being and what community carers can do to support and improve health equity. About our presenter:  Meredith MacKenzie, MD, BSc, CCFP (AM), FCFP is a Family Physician who has been providing primary care and addiction treatment at Street Health Centre (part of Kingston Community Health Centres) since 2000. She graduated from the University of British Columbia School of Medicine in 1998 and completed her family medicine residency at Queen’s University in 2000. Street Health Centre (SHC) serves people who use substances, those recently released from incarceration, those who are homeless or vulnerably housed, people involved in street work and high risk youth. SHC functions as a multidisciplinary team of harm reduction workers, counselors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians. Services include primary care, rapid access addiction treatment, counseling, hepatitis C testing and treatment, psychiatry, palliative care, shelter outreach, harm reduction education and supplies, and opioid overdose prevention and training with naloxone kit distribution. SHC also has an overdose prevention site. Meredith testified as a witness to Senate in support of Bill C-224 (Good Samaritan Act) and started the naloxone program at SHC in 2015. She has a special interest in early childhood adversity, particularly in the context of the impact on health and social well-being, including addiction. Her research has focused on the health care experiences of equity seeking populations including people with experience of homelessness. She is a member of the KFLA Systems Advisory Committee and the Joint Advisory Group, Substance Use, KFLA. She is a founding member of Kingston and Area ACEs Task Force (new name forthcoming). She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Queen's University. She is past chair of the Methadone Specialty Panel and current member of the Quality Assurance Committee at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

April 14, 2022 at 12:30pm NST | “Nothing About Us Without Us” : How can we engage people with lived experience in research and policy decisions on harm reduction?
The group will participate in a panel discussion/ roundtable on the pragmatic and ethical considerations for community-led participatory research with people with lived experiences of mental health and addictions. Possible questions to discuss: How can we optimize opportunities for people with lived experiences to be the principal investigators and not always the “subject” of research? How do we ethically recruit and engage with community in a real and non-tokenistic way? What pragmatic challenges should we consider in such research? Do universities need to consider new ways of doing research? What strengths and opportunities can result when policy decisions include engaging people with lived experience?onsiderations for research: how can we engage people with lived experience in research on harm reduction? 

May 12, 2022 at 12:30pm NST | An Analysis Intake Documents from the Right Here, Right Now drop-in or call-in counselling program of the St. John’s Women’s Centre: Who are we helping and why?
The Right Here, Right Now counselling program of the St. John’s Women’s Centre provides single session therapy to women and non-binary people (18 and over) in the St. John’s area. After five years in operations, a research team including Natalie Hawkins, BSW and a group of social work students, led by Dana Warren and Mary Walsh of the St. John’s Status of Women’s Council, have undertaken an analysis of intake data for the program in an effort to uncover the myriad issues and events that have brought clients to the program to seek professional counselling and supports.


October 28, 2020 | Public Health, Harm Reduction, Drug Policy & People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) | Dr. Christopher Smith, Memorial University's School of Social Work | Findings presented 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 23, 2020 | Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) | Connor Kent talked about the work being done at Memorial University's chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) which is a grassroots network comprised of youth and students who are concerned about the negative impact our drug policies have on individuals and communities. CSSDP considers problematic drug use in society primarily a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue, and advocates for appropriate responses to reduce and prevent harm from drug use. This  network of students is working to improve safety and advance social justice in their communities and provides students and community members with harm reduction information and supplies.  CSSDP 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, recognizing the inherent dignity, worth, and human rights of People Who Use Drugs. |

March 5, 2020 | Services Offered Through the ODT Centre of Excellence for People with Opioid Addictions | Jane Henderson B.A., B.Ed., M.A, Harm Reduction Consultant - Provincial Opioid Dependence Treatment (ODT) program and Centre of Excellence, 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  | Harm Reduction 101 | Link to Presentation |


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 | The presentation discussed a proposed interdisciplinary Ph.D. project looking at psychedelic substances and associated discourses (consumption practices, addiction, operations of power, meaning-making practices etc.) | Link to Presentation |


November 20, 2018 | An Update from the Opioid Dependence Treatment Working Group a Sub-Group of the Service Re-Design Project Team under Towards Recovery: The Action Plan for Mental Health and Addictions in Newfoundland and Labrador | Debbie Curtis, Group Chair | 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. | Link to Presentation |

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 | Link to Presentation |


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


October 6, 2016 | IDU Study | Christopher Smith and Tree Walsh | Presenters discussed 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 11, 2016 | The Intoxication of Narcotic Modernity | Dr. Christopher Smith | At this meeting, the group launched Dr. Smith’s new book “Addiction, Modernity, and the City: A Users’ Guide to Urban Space © 2016 – Routledge. |

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

April 21, 2016 | Shelter Services for Young Women | Jill Peckford, BSW RSW, Program Manager, Naomi Centre of Stella’s Circle | YouTube |


September 24, 2015 |  Harm Reduction as Anarchist Practice | Christopher Smith |

October 29, 2015 | The Safe Works Access Program (SWAP) | Tree Walsh, ACNL (AIDS Committee NL) | 

November 26, 2015 | Turnings: A Program Designed to Help Former Inmates Readjust to Life Outside Prison | Dan McGettigan |