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COVID-19 Considerations For People who Use Drugs

As a community, people who use drugs form a cross section of society. Within this, however, there can be certain factors which may result in a disproportionate impact, or which may require special consideration.

With this in mind, but with no special knowledge about the virus itself, I have been collating the advice offered across the Internet. From this I have produced the following condensed summary:

  1. The most obvious starting point is to consider drug use itself. A number of online communities are urging a reduction in or a cessation, with some citing effects upon the immune system as a specific risk for certain drugs. Please take these recommendations seriously and duly consider whether reduction or abstention is possible in your circumstances at this time. In addition, the Scottish harm reduction group CREW have published an article on general hygiene, which offers some excellent guidance. Equally, the INPUD have published a Twitter thread which presents a number of valuable tips, whilst SSDP have produced a global harm reduction alert.
  2. Remember that the general medical advice on personal care, including hand washing and avoidance of face-touching, applies equally to drug users. Don’t pass on this, including if and when you are under the influence of a psychoactive.
  3. If you have a copy of The Drug Users Bible, double down on all the safety information within it. Even in the prelude, The 10 Commandments Of Safer Drug Use, there are aspects which are clearly relevant in this scenario: (a) If you are feeling unwell, don’t add to your body load by engaging. If you find that you absolutely must, curtail the dose and exposure as much as you are able; (b) Set and setting for your drug experience takes a whole new meaning. Be aware of whatever the current advice is regarding isolation, quarantine and social distancing. Ensure that your trip plan takes full account of the situation to minimize the new risks created by the virus.
  4. If you are engaging in a social setting there are some clear issues to take on board. The most obvious is probably not to share the drugs, equipment or any paraphernalia. This includes weed: for example joints, blunts and bongs. I have seen articles explaining how to share a joint without sharing germs but in all honestly it’s probably best not to share at all at present.
  5. Don’t believe the myths, and fact check for fake news. For example, cannabis is not a self-remedy (and do you really want to be inhaling hot smoke whilst your lungs are fighting the virus?).
  6. Are you feeling unwell or do you suspect that you may already have the virus? If you can’t undertake a formal test, the BBC have published a short video to help you to self-diagnose.
  7. If you are dependent or if you are an addict, such that a break in supply could cause serious health issues, plan ahead immediately. The NUAA suggests discussing with your supplier, and the Harm Reduction Coalition provides comprehensive guidelines, but seeking formal medical help in advance should be seriously considered.
  8. Be kind. Taking off the sugar coating, a lot of people, including drug users, are likely to die. In this harrowing context you will need to decide how to present yourself as a person. I would urge the following as a minimum: (a) Look out for the people around you and try to ensure due care for those who need it; (b) In particular, look out for any old drugsters in your circle, who will be particularly vulnerable; (c) Look at your own immediate responsibilities, at those who rely upon you or may relay upon you. Take whatever steps you can to avoid your drug use conflicting with your ability to discharge these.
  9. Finding a positive note, if you use psychedelics you can approach this as an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth. Misha Lee explains this concept in this video. This is definitely a time for the kinder gentler you to take the stage and to emerge.
  10. Finally, if you are really struggling in the current situation, and your drug use is putting you at risk (with or without the virus) do not hesitate to reach out for help. The drug charities are your friends, and the various helplines are still running. Don’t be alone… if you need help, shout.


General COVID-19 Advice & Information:

WHO: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

WHO Q&A: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

NHS UK: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

CDC US: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

ECDC Europe Q&A: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china/questions-answers


* Dominic Milton Trott is author of The Drug Users Bible, explorer, traveller, and researcher of psychoactive chemicals and plants.


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