How to Have Conversations About Substance Use


​You are invited to free w​ebinars about having these difficult conversations with people who may be struggling with addiction.


A message from Corrina Chase, First Nations Addictions Care Partnership Manager (First Nations Health A​uthority, and the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use)

As many of us know all too well, COVID-19 is not the only crisis happening in British Columbia (BC). During COVID-19, overdo​se-related deaths continue to rise, and people who use substances, their families, and loved ones, continue to feel stigmatized and experience lateral violence.

Because we cannot reach out or meet in person, we are doing what we can to help Indigenous people in BC cope with both the COVID-19 and the overdose crises. This includes providing expert information through free public webinars about how to reduce the harms to people who use substances. The webinars are a tool to reach people and reduce the risk of being exposed to the stigma and shame associated with drug use.

About the Public Webinars

The goal with these webinars – and all of this collaborative work – is to deconstruct labels and stereotypes to support people in accessing harm-reduction supplies and critical health services.

The focus is to speak to Indigenous strengths and resiliency while promoting culture as a pathway for wellness. We strive to support each person on their individual journey by teaching them how to remove and reframe old negative labels, and instead use strengths-based thinking and language. We also weave in traditional teachings and healing ways that could support people on their healing journey.

There have been four webinars so far, with almost 500 attendees across BC.

What are the webinars about and how can people access them?

The webinars include a small handful of panellists talking about their lived experiences with substance use. Panellists include family members of those who use drugs. Together, we strive to break down the stigma associated with substance use, because stigma prevents people from accessing harm-reduction services or buddying up when they use drugs – and using alone is very dangerous. Essentially, the webinars promote safe conversations about opioid use. The purpose is to promote open discussion with families and communities regarding substance use. The more we share stories, the more we help relieve the pain and shame. Addiction is a family disease and we want to ensure families feel they can talk about drug use in ways that help lift one another up. The goal is to have people understand that addiction is a disease not a choice.

We work directly with communities in all regions of BC to support and promote these webinars. Please watch the FNHA's social media pages for information about the next webinars on “Difficult Conversations about Substance Use" and how you can access them. If someone is interested in hosting a webinar in their community, please email   

What are the main takeaways from the webinars?

The main messages for participants are that being kind and non-judgemental towards people who use substances can be lifesaving, while using stigmatizing language and being unkind only harms. Even what is called “tough love," that is, being hard on someone “for their own good," is absolutely not the answer in the case of substance use or addiction. In fact, it's really just another form of lateral violence. Learn more about the myths and facts about addiction here.

Lateral violence is misdirected aggression and anger towards family members or others in Indigenous communities; anger that should be directed at an oppressor.

Stigma is prejudice and discrimination that prevents family members and loved ones from feeling safe to talk about their substance use. As a result, people are using alone, or they are not prepared to prevent an overdose with the required Naloxone kits or by visiting drug-testing sites. What's more, if overdose-prevention sites are offered in their community, people don't use them because of the fear of being judged and shamed for their drug use.

It is crucial to focus on building relationships based on safety, respect, and trust. Conversations should aim to be compassionate, meaningful interactions. It is vital to build circles of support so that together, we can overcome the stigmas and lateral violence that prevent people from accessing essential health services and reaching out for help.

Learn more about harm reduction at

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