COVID-19 is a new disease in humans caused by a virus. The virus can spread from person to person through close personal contact. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild to severe and are similar to a cold or flu. Anyone with any symptoms, even if mild, must self-isolate immediately and seek testing.
During COVID-19, there are added risks for people who use substances (opioids, stimulants, alcohol, benzodiazepines, tobacco, or cannabis):
- The regular use of drugs can cause breathing problems and a weakened immune system. If you get COVID-19, it may be more severe, especially if you also have other medical conditions.
- It may be more difficult to get your usual drugs and medicines during the pandemic, and the drug supply may become more toxic. Trying new drugs may make you sick or increase your risk of overdose.
- Prevention measures, such as physical distancing and self-isolation, may be hard to do. Buying drugs or alcohol may put you in situations where you are in close contact with others, and increase the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.
- Sharing drug using equipment increases the risk of COVID-19 infection.
- If you usually smoke your drugs, you may find it difficult to inhale smoke if you become sick with COVID-19.
- If your supply is cut off, you may experience involuntary withdrawal.
- Some early symptoms of withdrawal are similar to COVID-19 symptoms and may be missed as possible COVID-19.
Using alcohol, cannabis and other drugs may seem like a way to cope with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s important to practice moderation. For ways to help you cope with stress and isolation during COVID-19, visit our Mental Health page.
If you have a substance use disorder, call your doctor, nurse or clinic about a plan for safe supply and possible withdrawal. Remember to reach out to friends, family, harm reduction providers, outreach workers and other health or social service providers to help you stay healthy and take care of one another.
Keep in mind that services may be scaled back or changed from usual operations, so call ahead, visit the agency’s web site or visit 211North.ca to get current information on services that are available.
Reduce Your Risk
When using alcohol, cannabis and other drugs, reduce risks to your health by following the tips below.
- Follow Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Use Guidelines.
- Assess your drinking using the tool Knowing Your Limits with Alcohol: A Practical Guide to Assessing Your Drinking.
- If your drinking is low to moderate risk:
- If your drinking is high risk:
- Follow the Safer Drinking Tips During COVID-19
- If you may be at risk of withdrawal, contact your doctor, nurse, clinic or support worker to make a plan.
- Additional Resources
- Follow Canada’s Lower Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines - Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- See also COVID-19 and Cannabis Use – How to Reduce your Risk and COVID-19: Alcohol and Cannabis Use - Canadian Centre for Substances and Addiction
- Learn more about cannabis on our Cannabis page.
- COVID-19 Tips for Safer Drug Use Card
- COVID-19 Harm Reduction Tips Poster
- Reduce your risk of harm from fentanyl or other opioids:
- Use a supervised consumption service (Path 525 is open Monday - Saturday from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. @ NorWest CHC Thunder Bay Site), use with a buddy or arrange to have someone check in on you.
- If using in a group, stagger times rather than using drugs at the same time.
- Try a small amount before using your usual amount.
- Call 911 if someone develops signs of opioid toxicity.
- Carry naloxone (available for free from the Health Unit by calling (807) 621-7861 and at most community pharmacies).
Protect Yourself and Others
- Eating well, drinking water and getting enough sleep will help you fight off infection.
- Do your part to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Visit the Stop the Spread page for information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- The Superior Points Harm Reduction Program offers harm reduction services including: free needle/syringe and other harm reduction supplies, free nasal spray naloxone kits and overdose awareness training.
- Outreach services are available Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
- Call the Superior Points Program: (807) 621-7862 or (807) 621-7861 or Toll-Free at 1 (888) 294-6630.
- Harm reduction supplies are also available at Path 525, Shelter House and Elevate.
- Path 525 offers a safe place to consume drugs (open Monday - Saturday from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. @ NorWest CHC - Thunder Bay Site).
- Visit our Preventing Opioid Overdose with Naloxone page to learn more.
If you are on medication-assisted therapy:
- Talk to your health care provider about making sure you are able to get your medications during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If you take suboxone or methadone, ask your clinic, doctor or nurse to make a plan to prevent disruptions to your dose.
Information for Unsheltered People
If you are not feeling well and think you may have COVID-19 symptoms:
- Call the assessment centre nearest you or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. A list of Assessment Centres and contact information is available.
- Call 911 if you are in need of immediate medical attention.
If you are experiencing a mental health or substance-related crisis, call Call Crisis Response (mobile unit suspended): (807) 346-8282 (Thunder Bay) or 1-888-269-3100 (in Thunder Bay District), call 911, or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
COVID-19 has affected many services. Some programs may be closed or offered in alternative ways. Call providers first or check their website to learn about any changes to accessing services.
To find services in your area:
- ConnexOntario @ 1-866-531-2600 - support for addictions, mental health and problem gambling
- Call 211 or visit 211North.ca to find local community, health and government services
To access addiction medicine:
- Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine Clinic (RAAM) - (807) 626-8478
- RAAM Clinics are open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Call ahead to book an appointment.
- Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support
- Kids Help Phone: Call 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868 for confidential crisis support and counselling for youth up to age 20.
- Youthspace - Online crisis and emotional support chat for youth up to age 30.
- SAMHSA’s Virtual Recovery Resources - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Visit COVID-19 Mental Health for more tips and resources.
Harm Reduction Workers
Consumption and Treatment Service Locations
Homeless Shelters and Group Homes
- Visit TBDHU's Congregate Living page
Health Care Providers
- COVID-19 Health Care Providers - TBDHU
- Guidance for the Health Care Sector – Ontario Ministry of Health
- Health Canada: Practitioners and Pharmacists Prescribing and Providing Controlled Substances in Canada during the Coronavirus Pandemic – Health Canada
- COVID-19 Opioid Agonist Treatment Guidance – Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- Health Canada Toolkit: COVID-19 and Substance Use - Health Canada