Overdose Prevention

Learn more about these harm reduction services and where to find them.

Overdose Prevention and Supervised Consumption Services and Drug Checking

Harm reduction is a pragmatic response that focuses on keeping people safe and minimizing death, disease and injury associated with higher risk behaviour, while recognizing that the behaviour may continue despite the risks. In the case of the overdose crisis, harm reduction requires a collective effort aimed at keeping people who use substances safe, by investing in strategies such as Overdose Prevention Services, Supervised Consumption Sites and Drug Checking Services, to prevent and respond to overdoses.

Overdose Prevention Services

Overdose prevention services are provided by health authorities in co-operation with community partners across the province. These designated spaces, which are integrated into existing social service or health care settings or in newly established locations, provide on-site monitoring of those at risk of overdose and allow for rapid response when an overdose occurs. While supervised consumption sites require municipalities to seek an exemption from federal drug laws, the same lengthy process is not required to establish an overdose prevention site.

Overdose prevention services are uniquely positioned as a low-barrier point of introduction to health and/or social services for people with substance use issues. Each site provides various levels of services, including overdose prevention education and Take Home Naloxone training and distribution. Some sites may also distribute harm reduction supplies (such as sterile needles, filters, cookers, condoms, etc.) offer safe disposal options, and facilitate referrals to mental health and substance use services. Currently, each British Columbia overdose prevention site offers drug checking services.

See list below for Overdose Prevention Services in your region.

Supervised Consumption Services

Supervised consumption services provide clean, safe environments where people who can use substances under the supervision of trained staff without the risk of arrest for drug possession.  These sites help reduce the transmission of disease, reduce fatal overdoses, and help connect people to health care services, including treatment.

Supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites offer a wide range of complementary health services that include:

  • Distribution of supplies for safer injection
  • Education on safe injection technique and infection prevention
  • Overdose prevention and intervention
  • Medical and counselling services
  • Referrals to substance use treatment
  • Connection to housing and other support services
  • Drug checking

A supervised consumption service is different from an overdose prevention service in that people who visit overdose prevention sites are monitored for overdose, rather than having substance use supervised.

See list below for a Supervised Consumption site in your region.

Drug Checking

Currently, fentanyl test strips are provided in all supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites in B.C. The test strips, originally developed to check urine for drugs, test for the presence of fentanyl in illicit substances. During the drug checking process, people who use substances are provided with test strips and offered simple instructions for testing their drugs. They simply dilute their substances with a few drops of water, and the test strip will indicate a positive or negative result for fentanyl within seconds. This method has recently been discovered effective to also detect several other fentanyl analogues, including carfentanil.

“With dangerous drugs like fentanyl contaminating the vast majority of street drugs, giving people information on what’s in the substance they are using can help them make informed decisions about whether or how much they consume – and could save lives.”- Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy

Another new drug checking service is being tested in Vancouver – the first of its kind in Canada. The pilot study is aimed at determining whether drug checking that is more widely available will help prevent overdose deaths, and is focused on a portable drug checking machine called a Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR). The machine can test a range of substances, including opioids, stimulants and other psychoactive drugs such MDMA. Testing with the FTIR can identify multiple compounds at once in a matter of minutes.

Research into drug checking can help to answer key questions about how effective and reliable these technologies could be in reducing the devastating number of overdose deaths in BC.

Find an Overdose Prevention Site or Supervised Consumption Site in your Community

Island Health

Locate Overdose Prevention and Supervised Consumption Services in: Campbell River, Courtenay, Duncan, Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Victoria

Interior Health

Locate Overdose Prevention and Supervised Consumption Services in: Kamloops and Kelowna

Fraser Health

Locate Overdose Prevention Services in: Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, Maple Ridge

Locate Supervised Consumption Sites in Surrey

Vancouver Coastal Health

Locate Overdose Prevention and Supervised Consumption Services in Vancouver

Learn more about overdose prevention and harm reduction

Harm Reduction and Take Home Naloxone in B.C. First Nations Communities

Fraser Health: Harm Reduction