Helping people who inject drugs build resilience in their communities amidst ongoing grief and loss of people close to them.
Many people who inject drugs, and people who work in harm reduction services, are living with grief and loss stemming from the ongoing crisis of opioid-overdose related deaths. These experiences of loss can take a psychological toll, yet there are few bereavement services available for people with theses experiences.
Working with our community partners, including people who inject drugs and harm reduction workers, we will use results from this research to develop an intervention to help people who inject drugs to develop coping strategies and build resilient communities.
To do this, we must first understand the problem. How do overdoses (experienced, witnessed, and overdose-related losses) affect people’s outlook and actions? What are the health, social and psychological factors that can help people to cope with ongoing grief?
To find out, we are surveying 250 people who inject drugs in Toronto about their overdose experiences and injection-related and sexual risk behaviours. These surveys are conducted by trained peer researchers who themselves have lived experience of drug use.
We also interviewing (one-on-one) 20 more people who inject drugs and 10 harm-reduction workers to learn more and to gain their insights regarding counseling, support and services for people who inject drugs.
This study is among the first of its kind. The results will directly inform our own community-based intervention (to be developed, pilot-tested and evaluated in future work), and provide a basis for other effective public health and clinical responses for this population.