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Students Develop Harm-​Reduction Toolkit for U of T Community

November 25/2021

by Françoise Makanda, DLSPH

U of T students developed a “Know Your Drugs 101” toolkit that will help students returning to campus spot the signs of a drug overdose.

The toolkit is comprehensive – it includes information on how to respond to an overdose, and how to access and administer naloxone.

DLSPH students Tenzin Butsang, Andrea Bowra and Indhu Rammohan came together with OISE student, Jann Houston to address overdoses at a time where Canada is reeling from the opioid crisis.

Andrea Bowra (top-left), Jann Houston (top-right), Tenzin Butsang (bottom-left) and Indhu Rammohan (bottom-right)

“We were concerned as students returning to campus,” says Houston. “We wanted to make sure students were aware of the toxic drug supply in Toronto, and to let people know about the resources available to help keep them safe.”

The toolkit includes information about a broad range of substances, including opioids, cannabis and alcohol. The document was student-led and created to compensate for the lack of resources on U of T campus, says Butsang.

The group worked with the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) Toronto Chapter at X University, formerly known as Ryerson, to pull resources and statistics from their work to develop the toolkit.

“They have naloxone on campus and they have a much more comprehensive harm reduction and overdose response strategy, but that’s as a result of student advocacy,” says Bowra.

They pulled additional information from a recent Toronto Board of Health report. And they engaged youth with lived experience with substance use through The Trip! Project, a city-funded project born out of the need to provide appropriate drug and sex information within the Toronto party scene.

But, their biggest contributors were respondents from OISE’s International Student Association.

“Some of the things we heard from international students were that there weren’t really any resources available to them,” says Butsang. “Many international students haven’t heard about the overdose crisis or aren’t familiar with what is happening.”

Students also come from diverse cultures and have different conceptions on what harm reduction means.

The team hopes that the toolkit will be the first step to a broader overdose response at U of T.

“Through work like this, we want to continue the conversation of having a broader U of T policy instituted around harm reduction, overdose response and overdose response training at the school, as U of T doesn’t offer naloxone on any of the three campuses across U of T,” says Butsang.

For now, the team is grateful for the grant they received as part of the U of T Student Engagement Awards that allowed them to develop this project.

“It is really a positive thing that the University has these grants to provide some funding for students to work on these types of projects, which did enable us to do this work,” says Houston.

Know your drugs 101