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There are many different prescription or illicit drugs that can be abused and may lead to overdose, including cocaine, crack, benzodiazepines (e.g., Ativan), opioids (e.g., morphine, heroin, and fentanyl), and methamphetamines (crystal meth). Cocaine, crack, and methamphetamines are powerful stimulants or uppers, benzodiazepines are sedatives or downers. Opioids are prescription pain medications, which in addition to relieving pain, can make a person feel euphoric or “high.”

Drugs can come in different forms like tablets, pills, oral liquid, patches placed on the skin, or injectable liquid. Drugs are abused when they are altered (e.g., crushed, heated, or boiled) and mixed with other ingredients, then snorted or injected.

People who abuse drugs can develop serious health problems (e.g., liver disease, skin abscesses, cellulitis, pneumonia, hepatitis B and C, HIV, seizures, psychosis, or heart attack) that require hospital care or can even cause death.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit works closely with community agencies and other health care professionals to prevent the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs, reduce associated harms, and promote awareness about treatment options related to problematic use by working together in the following areas:

Drug Prevention

Prevention activities often focus on people rather than a substance.  Prevention strategies can include activities to:

  • Improve family relationships.
  • Foster caring relationships within the community.
  • Help identify and access supports.
  • Help a person recognize their achievements.
  • Encourage self-exploration and goal setting.
  • Create nurturing relationships with mentors and peers.
  • Form opportunities for continued involvement in the community.

Prevention activities happening in our area:

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction programming reduces the harm associated with specific behaviours. For example, educating individuals about safer drug use practices to reduce risky behaviour (e.g. education about the importance of using clean needles).

Drug related harm reduction programs have been in operation for over 30 years in 93 countries. The principles of harm reduction include:

  • Respecting a person’s dignity and rights if and when they choose to use drugs.
  • Acknowledging that non-medical use of psychoactive drugs happens in many societies and can range from abstinence, to chronic dependence, to abuse.
  • Enhancing and providing knowledge, skills, resources, and supports to people so they can make informed decisions that will benefit them.
  • Decreasing negative consequences of drug use to the user and others.
  • Focusing on a person’s most immediate needs.
  • Taking time to help a person become healthier and live safer.

Harm reduction programming:

  • Reduces the risk of getting or sharing blood borne infections (e.g., HIV and Hepatitis).
  • Reduces the risk of having a drug overdose.
  • Increases the chance of staying safe and getting help.

Strategies include:

  • Needle exchange programs.
  • Opioid overdose prevention and treatment.
  • Peer outreach.
  • Cocaine equipment distribution.
  • Counselling about safer drug use and safer injection practices.
  • Hepatitis B and C and HIV testing.
  • Safe injection sites.
  • Referrals for safe housing, social services, and addiction and mental health treatment.

Harm reduction activities happening in our area:

The AIDS Committee of Windsor (ACW) provides the following harm reduction programs:

In addition, ACW and other local agencies provide the following:

  • Peer outreach.
  • Counselling about safer drug use and safer injection practices.
  • HIV and Hep C testing.
  • Referrals (e.g., help for physical or mental health problems, shelter and safe housing, financial and legal assistance).
  • Drug Court. This program helps people 18 years and older who have been charged with a crime. They cooperate with court officials and receive counselling which can prevent future problems with the law.

Treatment Options in Windsor and Essex County

Here is a listing of local places that provide treatment options for people with substance misuse problems.