COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative: Research

The GID-COVID Project: Gender and Intervention in Addiction with Individuals in Situations of Social Precarity in the Context of a Pandemic

Key Messages

  • Individuals in situations of social precarity who are dealing with problematic substance use run a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Priority must therefore go toward making them aware of health measures that take into account substance use and the living conditions of marginalized populations.
  • During the pandemic, a range of measures must be developed to ensure access to a continuum of harm reduction and treatment services. Certain essential activities, particularly outreach work, must likewise be maintained.
  • Sexual and gender diversity must factor into the adaptation of services during the pandemic to prevent further health inequities, especially for women and members of sexual and gender minorities who are dealing with substance use.

Lay Summary

Individuals in situations of social precarity who are dealing with problematic substance use run a higher risk both of contracting COVID-19 and of suffering serious adverse health effects. This reality points to the urgent need to provide them with clear, ongoing information about various available public health measures as these are implemented. Such measures must address issues specifically related to psychoactive substance use while also taking into account other factors, including the housing and living situations of homeless populations, issues related to financial security, sexuality, and the living conditions of specific marginalized populations such as sex workers.

When planning services for the most vulnerable populations, priority must be given to measures that promote access to a continuum of harm reduction and treatment services. These include online interventions; maintaining the capacity to receive new requests for assistance; maintaining outreach work as an essential activity; and establishing or developing collaborative agreements between harm reduction and treatment services in the health and community sectors. Harm reduction activities that are vital to maintain during the COVID-19 pandemic include overdose monitoring and prevention, safe supply initiatives, and HIV/STI prevention. Supporting — and, if possible, improving — cooperation between addiction services and those that address living conditions and basic needs (food, housing, income) is equally critical.

Investment is needed to support harm reduction and treatment practitioners by making the appropriate technology, training and supervision available. Such resources will enable the development of clinical practices adapted to the challenges of substance use in a context of social precarity, including online intervention work. In addition, sexual and gender diversity must be considered when adapting services in the context of the pandemic to prevent further health inequities, especially for women and members of sexual and gender minorities who are dealing with substance use.

Keywords

  • Dependency
  • Psychoactive substances
  • Social precarity
  • Homelessness
  • Mental health
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Harm reduction
  • Treatment
  • Services

Author(s)

  • Nominated Principal Applicant: Karine Bertrand, Université de Sherbrooke; Canada Research Chair on Gender and Intervention in Addiction; Scientific Director, Institut universitaire sur les dépendances (IUD)scientifique, Institut universitaire sur les dépendances (IUD)
  • Martin Camiré (CSSMTL-IUD)
  • Jorge Flores Aranda (UQAM)
  • Dr. Marie-Ève Goyer (U. de Montréal, CSSMTL-IUD)
  • Mathieu Goyette (UQAM)
  • Marie Jauffret Roustide (INSERM, Paris, France)
  • Dr. Julie Loslier (DSP-Montérégie, U. de Sherbrooke)
  • David-Martin Milot (U. de Sherbrooke, DSP-Montérégie)
  • Vincent Wagner (IUD)
  • Caroline Leblanc (U. de Sherbrooke)
  • Chelsea Groethé (Cactus)
  • Carl Tardif (Université de Sherbrooke)

Related Syntheses

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Population

Vulnerable or At-Risk Populations, People Who Use Drugs (PWUD) and Substance Us

Language

To ensure the rapid dissemination of this critical information, information is published in the language in which it was submitted. Please contact us for French or English translations.

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