Canadian Drug Policy Coalition releases findings of first-of-its-kind qualitative research on safe supply of drugs 

Unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations (Vancouver, B.C., Canada) – Today, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC) released the findings from its three-year Imagine Safe Supply study that examined ideas about safe supply participation with people who use drugs and frontline workers.

“The debate around a safer supply of drugs is making headlines across Canada, for all the wrong reasons,” said DJ Larkin, Executive Director of the CDPC. “Misinformation and stigma are turning attention away from evidence, data and meaningful engagement with people most affected by our current toxic drug crisis. These misinformed narratives have the potential to do very real harm, and worsen an already unbearable situation that is causing the deaths of thousands of people every year. This research refocuses on what’s possible when we work toward solutions that are effective and meaningful for people who use drugs.”

“In our research, we looked into the gaps between current access to regulated supply of drugs and ‘desired’ safe supply,” said Erin Howley, Senior Research Associate with the CDPC, and the Imagine Safe Supply project lead. “This data offers deep insight into what effective safe supply based on the leadership of people who use drugs could look like.”

The three-year, community-based qualitative research project involved in-depth interviews with 33 people from across British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec about what they need for safe supply. Key findings from Imagine Safe Supply include:

  • The values of community-building, autonomy and self-determination, mutual care, trusted relationships, and cultural inclusion are central to the design of any effective safe supply program or service.
  • Effective safe supply includes a range of choices around drug options and dosages that reflect people’s unique reasons, needs and desires for using drugs. 
  • Holistic safe supply would offer a spectrum of models and supports to address the diverse needs and person-centered goals of PWUD; there is no one-size fits all approach. Effective safe supply supports a full range of choices including consensual and equitable detox and treatment options, and holistic social and economic supports, including housing.
  • All levels of government and decision-makers need to prioritize approaches to safe supply that centre the knowledge, leadership, and relationships between people who use drugs.

The Imagine Safe Supply research team includes people who use drugs and frontline workers, as well as graduate students and staff of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition at Simon Fraser University. The research team co-created and led every stage of the project, including research design, interviews, data analysis, and knowledge sharing. This research was undertaken through a partnership with Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, which stewards all data related to First Nations research participation in accordance with OCAP® Principles; First Nations findings have not yet been published. 

“Our project has the word ‘imagine’ in its title for a reason,” said Phoenix Beck McGreevy, Community Research Associate. “We asked people to envision their ideal safe supply program, from the available substances to the staff and the setting. When people ventured outside the realm of what’s currently possible, that was where the really beautiful data lived.” 

“This research changes the channel on the safe supply debate, by placing people who use drugs and frontline workers front and centre,” said Howley. “These findings offer resources that bring real-world experience to the drug policy debate, and provide knowledge and guidance to service providers, clinicians and decision-makers developing effective responses to the drug poisoning crisis in Canada.”

The CDPC is calling on decision-makers in Canada to increase the scale and scope of safe supply access across Canada, including rural and remote areas and to underserved populations. This includes ensuring access to regulated drugs of known contents and potency to act as an alternative to the toxic unregulated drug supply, and ensuring people using drugs – with an emphasis on racialized and Indigenous people who are disproportionately affected by this crisis – are fully involved in safe supply design and delivery.  


Images available for download

See dropbox link for:

  • Photographs of the Imagine Safe Supply research team
  • Illustrated headshots of the Imagine Safe Supply research team
  • Illustrations from the Imagine Safe Supply Zine, a forthcoming knowledge translation document created to share findings from the research


The Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs (CAPUD) defines safe supply as “a legal and regulated supply of drugs with mind/body altering properties that traditionally have been accessible only through the illicit drug market”. Safe supply means drugs that are legally regulated with a known potency and composition. More information on Imagine Safe Supply and its findings can be found at

About the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Founded in 2010, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition works in partnership with more than 60 organizations and 7,000 individuals working to support the development of a drug policy for Canada that is based in science, guided by public health principles, respectful of the human rights of all, and seeks to include people who use drugs and those harmed by the war on drugs in moving towards a healthier society. Learn more at

Media contact:

Lesli Boldt for Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

[email protected]


Vancouver, B.C.

About Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Advocating for public health- and human rights-based drug policy grounded in evidence, compassion, and social justice