Terms to Know


Opioids are a broad group of pain-relieving drugs that work by interacting with opioid receptors in human cells, muffling the pain response and increasing feelings of pleasure. At lower doses, opioids may cause sleepiness, but higher doses can slow breathing and heart rate, potentially leading to death.


Naloxone is a rapid-acting drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. Naloxone works by displacing opioids off receptors in the brain, which reverses the effects of opioids on the body. This medication only works if you have opioids in your system. Giving naloxone to a person that is unconscious because of a non-opioid overdose is unlikely to cause harm. However, naloxone will not reverse overdoses that are caused by non-opioid drugs such as methamphetamine or alcohol.


Stimulants, sometimes called “uppers,” temporarily increase alertness and energy. High doses may result in dangerously high body temperatures, blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. The most commonly used street drugs that fall into this category are methamphetamines and cocaine.

Intravenous (IV) drugs

IV drugs are chemicals which are injected directly into the bloodstream via needle into a vein. The risk of overdosing is much higher when drugs are injected directly into the bloodstream. Because of the rapid action of the high and the severity of the effects, users can find it hard to assess how much of the drug they are injecting into their bloodstream, making the likelihood of overdosing higher when compared to other methods of drug consumption.


An overdose happens when a toxic amount of a drug, or a combination of drugs, is consumed by an individual. An overdose can lead to very serious medical complications, including death. It is possible to overdose on many substances, including alcohol and prescription medications. Opioid overdoses are dangerous in a specific way because opioids affect the receptors that also control the regulation of breathing. When people take high doses of opioids it can cause slow and shallow breathing, and sometimes death.


Overamping is a term to describe an “overdose” on stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine or cocaine. These drugs raise the heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. A person can overamp based on a variety of physical and psychological factors, and it’s not necessarily related to the amount of drugs consumed. Overamping can result in seizure, heart attack and stroke, as well as extreme psychological distress.


Peers are individuals with knowledge about drugs and harm reduction that comes directly from their personal experience. Peers may currently use drugs or have used drugs in the past.

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction is a term used to describe the interventions that decrease the amount of harm a person experiences from an activity, keeping people safer. An everyday example of harm reduction most people use is seatbelts in cars. Seatbelts do not remove all the danger from automotive travel, but wearing one makes it a lot more likely that someone will survive a car accident. Providing condoms and needles to people is also harm reduction, because it gives them the tools to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.

Supervised Consumption Site (SCS)

A supervised consumption site is a place where people can use drugs in a supervised and hygienic environment to reduce the harm from substance use while offering additional services such as counselling, social work and addiction treatment referral. In Canada, the term Supervised Consumption Site is typically reserved for sites that have been exempted by Health Canada under section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Consumption sites may also be be referred to as: Supervised Injection Facilities, Safer Consumption Spaces and Overdose Prevention Sites

Overdose Prevention Sites (OPS)

An Overdose Prevention Site is also a place where people can use their own illicit drugs, access sterile harm reduction equipment, and receive emergency overdose response as needed. However, overdose prevention sites tend to be more basic in regard to size, capacity and resources. These sites can be mobile in nature or even consist of a quick pop-up tent. OPSs often precede SCSs due to the immediate need for harm reduction services and the sluggish bureaucracy associated with SCS applications.

Safe Supply

Pandemic border closures further disrupted illicit drug supply routes, making the drugs available to community members even less consistent and more risky than before. Harm reduction advocates are calling for a safe supply of drugs to be made available to people so that they can be certain that the substances have not been adulterated with stronger additives such as fentanyl.

Sexually Transmitted/Blood Borne Infection (STBBI)

Blood borne infections (BBI) are transmitted by contact with blood. Some infections (for example HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C) may be transmitted through sex as well as through blood borne transmission routes, such as shared needles. Common STBBIs include chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, hepatitis B and C, HIV and syphillis