Episode 70: The Toxic Drug Crisis Podcast Series: Is Harm Reduction Enough?

Dignity, Human Rights – Sep 2023

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Episode 70: The Toxic Drug Crisis Podcast Series: Is Harm Reduction Enough?
Broadcast Date: September 21, 2023


Drug toxicity is a leading cause of death in Canada and around the world. Over the course of three episodes, we will address three interrelated topics related to the toxic drug crisis. This first episode will focus on harm reduction and the impact of stigma on people who use drugs. While the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the importance of harm reduction for effective addiction treatment, contemporary efforts have diverged from the traditional aims of grassroots harm reduction: to promote and protect the dignity of people who use drugs. How can harm reduction be enhanced to reduce the number of deaths related to drug toxicity and better serve the needs of those affected by structural, social, and economic vulnerabilities? Host Sarah Rowe addresses this question and more with guests Dr. Geoff Bardwell and Craig Marshall.

This series is produced in memory of Marc Alexander O’Keefe.


Geoff’s research seeks to understand how social, structural, and environmental contexts shape substance use, risks and harms, and related public health interventions. As a community-based researcher, he uses qualitative and ethnographic methods to understand how factors such as gender, built environments, poverty, criminalization, and drug policies affect the health and well-being of people who use drugs and how they shape the implementation and effectiveness of targeted interventions (e.g., supervised consumption services). He has examined a variety of interventions across Canada in various environments such as community health centres, inner-city drug scenes, housing environments, and rural, remote, and Indigenous communities.

In addition to this research, he also has many years of direct service experience working with people who use drugs. He has worked as a housing stability worker for a Housing First organization, at a needle and syringe program for an HIV/AIDS organization, and as a harm reduction street outreach worker. This direct service experience provided him valuable insights into the daily lives of people who use drugs and inspired him to pursue a career in drug policy research.

Craig is a Canadian Red Cross volunteer, beginning in Swimming and Water Safety and transitioning to First Aid and Opiod Harm Reduction (OHR). Within the OHR project his role is to deliver First Aid for Opioid Poisoning Emergencies, training both virtually and in-person. Virtual sessions include Overdose Awareness Day and other sessions nationally. Craig has delivered in-person training including Naloxone kit distribution to Memorial University classes and to CUPE members in the Atlantic area.


Sarah is a 3L student in the English Common Law program at the University of Ottawa from St. John’s, Newfoundland. At CIAJ she has worked on the Symposium on Indigenous Courts, the Annual Conferences, and on podcasts discussing topical justice issues. She is the Chair of CIAJ Student Committee. Sarah would like to use her legal education to expand her worldview and advance the rights of Indigenous peoples, migrants, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, and other minority groups in Canada.

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