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Cognitive Effects of Ketamine, Cannabis and Poly-Drug Use

Researchers at Ryerson University are interested in studying cognitive performance associated with the effects of ketamine, cannabis and other recreational drugs, in comparison to the performance of drug-naïve participants. Your participation will require completing questionnaires about drug history and experiences associated with both legal and illegal drugs. Questions about personal experiences may cause psychological discomfort. In addition, you will be asked to complete various measures regarding your experiences, thoughts, and feelings, as well as virtual-reality and other computerized tasks measuring navigation and memory skills. Information learned about you in this study will be maintained secure and confidential within our lab.

We are recruiting individuals that currently use ketamine or cannabis at least once per month. We are also recruiting individuals who are currently using other recreational drugs (all types), as well as drug-naive participants. Overall, participation will take 2-3 hours, for which you will receive $10-15. Your participation in any/all components of the study will be on a voluntary basis. You must be between the ages of 18-60 to participate. 

Please contact the BIM Lab at (416)979-5000 x2192 or 

Calling all Youth HIV/AIDS Peer Educators!

Interested in HIV and sexual health? Passionate about the arts? Under 30?! Inspired by “Empower: Youth, Arts, and Activism – An HIV/AIDS Arts Activism Manual for Youth by Youth ,” this project will train youth to use a community‐arts based approach to HIV prevention and other sexual health issues. We are accepting applications until March 30, 2011.

You can download the the full application package here. 

You may also download the application form in word. 

For more info check out !

Help TRIP! Represent @ IHRA 2011

Dear Friends and Community Members,

Beirut PostcardAs you may know, I have been fundraising for my airfare to the International Harm Reduction Association Conference (IHRA)  which will be happening this April in Beirut, Lebanon. I am proud and extremely pleased to announce that with the help of TRIP! Coordinator and North American Youth RISE  rep Lisa Campbell Salazar I've been able to raise $900 so far!

I feel so incredibly lucky to be receiving this amazing and motivating support from members of our global community! I am still a bit a way from being able to cover the airfare and any contribution would be greatly appreciated! Every cent counts and you can donate through the blue Canada Helps Button securely online. As well, I look forward to sending contributors postcards from Beirut, so please leave me your address if you would like to receive one! 

Thank you so much to everyone who has been donating, attending this conference will be a really big step for the TRIP! project as we expand our knowledge on harm reduction. Toronto is home to a very diverse community and we look forward to being able to serve it in a culturally adapted way and hope that this conference gives us the tools to reshape and refine our harm reduction skills as well as learn from global leaders in harm reduction. Make sure to stay posted to the TRIP! blog as Lisa and I will be updating it daily from the conference with relevant information to our community as well as with pertinent news from  IHRA. 

Thank you so much,

Yamina-Sara C.
Outreach Worker
TRIP! Project
Queen West Community Health Centre
168 Bathurst Street, 
Toronto ON M5V 2R4
Phone: (416) 703-8482 ext. 125
Fax: (416) 703-7832



Holy Smokes!

Holy Smokes Pt 2: Tobacco and Other Smokable Herbs

Welcome to the new TRIP! Project Community Zine on tobacco and harm reduction! Be sure to click on the image above to get your copy of the PDF fresh off the press. This issue we will be exploring tobacco, one of the most prevelent drugs out there. The articles within this zine are a collaborative effort featuring a collection of youth voices from our community with the focus on tobacco and harm reduction. The goal of this zine is to offer information that will empower youth to make healthier lifestyle choices around tobacco and other smokable herbs. The articles featured in the zine focus on a variety of topics including tips for quitting smoking, cutting down, emerging trends, personal reflections and poetry of individuals affected directly or indirectly by smoking. The opinions expressed in this zine are those of their respective authors and may include some bias as they reflect our diverse community. Think critically while reading! Learn more about smoking and harm reduction by checking out Holy Smokes pt 1, with a focus on pot.

Holy Smokes:

Introduction for Occasional and Chronic Users

Holy Smokes The most useful plant on earth! The devil weed! Cannabis (a.k.a. pot, marijuana, weed, herb, bhang, ganja, grass, dagga, keif, kanabosm, asa, reefer, tai-ma or its innumerable other names) is one of the most charged words in our language for it represents what is arguably the most controversial plant of modern times. The very utterance of its name can arouse a full range of emotion and passion from hate to love, fear to bliss and all points in between. Indeed a visitor to our world might be very confused as to all the fuss over this seemingly benign, spindly and unassuming herb. Yet its physical humbleness masks the great influence this plant has had on human psyche and society - to such a degree that people have even pledged their lives to its propagation or eradication.



Check out our new interactive online exploration of cannabis!


So You Think You Can Rave?

So you Think you Can Rave?!
The TRIP! Project is looking for experienced dancers, musicians, visual arts/fashion specialists or other talented ravers looking to spread their arts-related skills in a series of workshops to take place from March - June on Saturday afternoons.

We’re looking for ravers, partiers and other talented artists to teach different skills that would be associated with the rave subculture. This can include different forms of dance, fashion design, media arts, music production/DJing or other rave-related skills! Honorariums ($$) will be awarded to all of those selected to facilitate (teach) each session!

Think you can do it? Send us your portfolio, a video, or flaunt your talents in person! Send a summary of your experience to before Wednesday, February 16th and we’ll see what you’ve got!

“Institution is not just a place, it's the way people think”

Prison Industrial Complex

When we strive towards the common goal of harm reduction, it is best done through community participation. The more allies we have, the stronger we are. The more familiar we become with the struggle of others, the more we learn about our own and acquire new skills and tools to further our cause. On Saturday January 22nd I sat in on a Community Justice Coalition meeting. The topic was, but not limited to, the prison industrial complex. That may sound like a mouthful, so let me take a moment to explain. The prison industrial complex is a term that is often used to describe the manner in which  the rapid expansion of people in prison is linked to the influence of private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies. The people who promote this are more interested in making a profit rather than rehabilitating individual or actually reducing the crime rate. As such, many people end up institutionalized for the wrong reasons. These can be substance use and disability which results in the criminalization of both drug users and people with disabilities. In some of the saddest instances, they end up dying in the institutions from lack of proper medical care or harm reductions supplies.

The Community Justice Coalition came together in February of last year to resist the Harper government's “Law and Order” agenda which seeks to lock away more people and for longer periods of time. The conservatives have put forth over 16 new crime bills which plan on increasing state control by removing power out of the hands of individuals and increase prison spending. They have put forth these bills while trying to convince the public that they will increase safety and diminish crime but there is more evidence to suggest that community organizations, income subsidies and effective drug and harm reduction do this best. The bills that our government are trying to pass will have impacts not only on individuals, but on families, youth and society as a whole. 

How did this happen and how could there be such attempts at disempowering the public? The answers may be found when looking through a historical lens the Canadian governments past actions when dealing with marginalized peoples. At the meeting we viewed as a group a documentary called "The Freedom Tour" which documented the work of People First of Canada, a group dedicated to putting people first in communities and deinstitutionalization. This documentary provided us with a visualization of peoples experiences,  a very powerful tool indeed. We saw that people who were institutionalized not too far from our own homes were forced to participate in unpaid work, had no privacy and were subject to both corporal and emotional abuse.  We saw people with mental disabilities trapped in these institutions, when what they needed was to be part of the community.  These institutions were places like the Michener Centre, where there was widespread sterilization, sexual abuse and neglect in the facilities. People with disabilities who died here were sent to the centre's cemetery, and their families seldom notified of their passing. The Valley View Centre where the abuse was so bad and the care so entirely poor that when an individual tried to run away, he seizured while trying to jump a train and lost both legs which had to be amputated. When he was returned to centre, he tried twice again to escape. This time in a wheelchair. What does this say about our institutions? It tells us that they are imperfect and that they are in need of reform. It tells us that there needs to be more community input. 

People in institutions still need representation and support and it is important to realize that we can not take pieces of peoples lives as though we are entitled to it, because systematic institutional organization tells us we are permitted to. These institutions are not the working of a healthy, free and democratic nation. In addition, institutions and prisons that will be built under Harper's agenda are both counter productive and are not treatment centres. In 2010, the Correctional Investigator  completed two separate reports concerning the deaths of two prisoners in federal custody- an Aboriginal man and a female youth. Negligence and segregation played a role in both of these deaths. 

As we can see, prisons and institutions are not the right places for community members to receive treatment and especially not youth. Unfortunately, Bill C-4 recommends that we send youth to institutions and enforce it with more vigour than in the past.


What is Bill C-4?



The purpose of this bill is to amend certain provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act to emphasize the importance of protecting society and to facilitate the detention of young persons who reoffend or who pose a threat to public safety.

 As such, to name a few things that it can do: 


  • establishes deterrence and denunciation as sentencing principles similar to the principles provided in the adult criminal justice system 
  • expands the case law definition of a violent offence to include reckless behaviour endangering public safety
  • amends the rules for pre-sentence detention to facilitate the detention of young persons accused of crimes against property punishable by a maximum term of five years of more 
  • requires the Crown to consider the possibility of seeking an adult sentence for young offenders 14-17 years of age convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter of aggravated sexual assault


When reading these provisions, it important to keep in mind that one in four females and one in ten males have mental health problems at the time they are sent to prison.

How do we deconstruct these issue and ensure that the needs of real people take precedence over that of so called “institutional efficiency?” As is illustrated with the examples provided above, the Canadian government has had a tendency to act like some lives are worth more than others and that some lives are mores deserving of the liberty and freedom on which we pride ourselves as members of Canadian society. We must call for is seeing people for who they are rather than the labels that are attached to them. Is is our duty, if not our obligation, to do so. 

For more information about the People First of Canada, please visit

Drug Induced Psychosis: A Personal Story

Drgu Induced PsychosisI want to start at the very beginning of my story: I have always had an addictive personality and addiction runs in my family. In Grade 9 it was drinking, Grade 10 came weed, cigarettes, ecstasy, mushrooms, cocaine, ketamine. Grade 11 came nitrous, acid and then there was M3 (mixture of meth, coke, and k). I wanted everything but I never knew when to cut myself off. I would steal and lie just to get what I needed to get high. We had a support group of about 14 of us, we would constantly want to get high, find new links for each other and make each other all feel relatively normal. Most of us were functioning in our daily life, saving the drug use until the weekend, while others were already starting to slip mentally and going on binges. It’s a scary moment for anyone when you realize one of your best friends doesn’t think they’re living on the same planet anymore. I was that friend. A few of the people in my group would sometimes have little mental break downs or show signs of not being stable, but I was constantly not okay. I now know what happened to me was a mixture of all the drugs I had been doing leading up to the disastrous point that put all my brain chemical levels out of whack. It may be hard to believe but it’s not so hard to get lost into believing that what you see and hear is real no matter how extreme it may be.

When the hallucinations started I was sitting in the usual apartment where I normally did all my drugs at, watching TV. It was around 4 am... Earlier that night I went to a rave, did some ecstasy, but felt relatively sober. All of sudden, the subtitles at the bottom of the TV started speaking to me, saying the world was going to end and specifically saying my name. At that moment, three of the people I was with decided to go to the store, leaving just one guy sitting on the couch with me who I barley knew and my other friend sleeping in the chair. Next thing I know the TV is telling me I have ten seconds to save the world by having sex with this guy next to me to prove my dedication to God or else the world would explode and we would all die. (I was also an atheist by the way). You think that’s fucked up? Well get this, I drag the guy into the bedroom, we have sex and I think he is aware of everything too because he was reading the TV just like me.  After that, I just sat back down kept reading the TV because I knew this godly controlling power had better thank me for what I had done. Next thing I knew it started telling me to go to sleep, and when I wake up I will be in a better place. So I go lay down on the bed, close my eyes and start holding my breath. At this point my head is spinning, I can’t believe whats going on, I just saved the world and I’m going to wake up in paradise.  So now I’m basically lying down trying to commit suicide, just by holding my breath as long as possible. There were points where I thought I could literally feel my body floating away from the bed. All of a sudden I'm like, “Wait I can’t die here I want to die in my own home.” So I go home with my friend and cry in bed all night thinking I’m getting signs sent from God from everywhere. I even lit candles for my parents to find me in the morning.

Finally, I fall asleep. When I wake up I feel like I’m in a new dimension where everything’s the same but I’m this prodigy and the TVs are talking about me, and all the lights are the worlds cameras into my life. They exist to prove I am real and I saved the world, I would read books and it would be God sending me messages. I would talk to my friends in riddles because I thought I couldn’t seriously tell them what happened, just hint at it or I would get in trouble. I thought everyone was constantly watching me on YouTube so I wouldn’t eat so I wouldn’t have to barely ever go to the bathroom. I would yell at people on the streets because they would glance at me. Even though I was really abrasive, no one around me really even started asking me why I was acting like this for almost a month. I even had a job at the time working for my cousin. I tried to be nice and polite but I still thought everything was revolving around me so every sentence I heard was something twisted having to do with me. I’d think shadows were real, hear noises and think they were spirits. Eventually my closest friends would be crying in front of me but I just couldn’t understand why. My cousin who I was working for finally managed to bring me to the hospital. I thought I was there so they could run tests and the world would know I was real. They forced me up to their mental health ward and put me in a room. At this point I was 5’2 and 92 pounds and I totally thought I had changed the world for the better.  This was the end, I would be queen of this world with this guy (who I thought was the devil) who would be king and my best friend was Jesus-- that’s how everything had come to be. So I get out of the hospital, another month passes by, even after all the medication they were giving I was still psychotic. By this time I realized I’d have to pretend to agree with everyone or else I’ll have to be in the hospital.

The first day back at school this random girl is talking about how the babies are dying in some country and my whole brain snaps back. I don’t know if the medication just decided to kick in or what it was about that moment, but I finally realized everything wasn’t real from the moment with the TV to the 3 months after. That day I went home and didn’t leave my house for months, other then to just see my psychiatrist. I even contemplated suicide holding a knife to my wrist but just couldn’t seem to press down hard enough.

Only one of my best friends stayed with me throughout this dark period in my life. It’s really difficult to understand why these things happen to people who may not necessarily deserve it. For me personally even though it took me a hell of a long time to come to this conclusion, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s scary that such a horrible thing could bring so much good out of me. I now want to work in mental health and addiction, I want to show people they’re not alone and there is hope. To this day I take Lithium which is a mood stabilizer for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Even though I don’t do drugs, sometimes it causes me to black out when I drink so I still have to be very careful.

Drug induced psychosis isn’t something you can recognize in people everyday; as you can see it took months for me to get help. If you know anyone who might be suffering from mental illness, help them see a therapist or talk to their loved ones. You might just save their life. Remember even though they may hate you at this moment, they will thank you for the rest of their life.

After reading this you may think it’s a joke or made up but it’s not, it’s my life and if you ever know someone or hear of someone or even see that guy talking to himself on the side of the street don’t laugh. That person would never want to be in that situation for a million years but for some reason they are. All you can do is try and get them to help or show your support towards how necessary mental health resources are in our community. And one last thing, if you have gone through something similar to this remember you are not alone.    

Violence Against Drug Users

Violence against drug usersViolence against drug users isn't something we enjoy thinking about, but it is a reality that plays itself out on a daily basis and it  is very much worthy of our concern and attention. It may not necessarily manifest itself through physical violence though it can and has in the past. Policies are sometimes created and adopted to discriminate against minority groups, in turn jeopardizing their social mobility. Examples of this can be illustrated through the creation of the Anti-Opium Ordinance passed in in 1878 which was directed at criminalizing Chinese immigrants who had used opium traditionally and as well when looking at the current laws surrounding crack cocaine as opposed to cocaine which seek to criminalize the lower classes that are traditionally associated with the use of crack cocaine. As I sat in a  criminal court room in Queens New York,  last December, case after case that was presented before me dealt with nearly the same thing; an individual tracked down through racial profiling, what appeared to be an unwarranted search, charged with possession of crack cocaine, case presented as an intent to traffic. Why was this happening? Why were all of these people who demonstrated clear signs of not only poverty but mental disorders as well, being criminalized? Why were their attorneys, supposedly in charge of their legal well being, seeming so aloof? It was because of this same violence that I want to turn to.  Violence against drug users, as I see it, is their denial of liberty, of a proper justice system and the permanent stain that is often left on their lives whether it be their denial into neighbouring countries or of a number of employment opportunities.

But it can take other forms as well, and whether we like to believe it or not, we may find ourselves being compliant in this oppression. I recently experienced the loss of someone I knew who was a drug user, and it was their drug of choice that created what I felt was an unfair memorialization of their lives. The drug happened to be heroin. It hurt me, and saddened me deeply to witness the judgement that was so quickly passed upon them. Things such as “it was her fault”, “well what do you expect to happen when you do heroin?” or “if she hadn't of done it in the first place she wouldn't have died” were all being said. This not only affected the way in which this individual was being perceived but deeply troubled the people who continued to love her and support her after she had died. As difficult as it is to navigate through such a delicate and tragic situation, I realized that there was something fundamentally wrong in these accusations. These same people who so readily placed judgement on her would not reacted in the same manner had her death occurred because she hadn't been wearing a seatbelt, or, I will go as far as argue, driving under the influence. This individual became the drug, and her personality was stripped of any other factor in such a violent matter that it struck me as not only immoral, but as deeply rooted in the way our society reacts to drug users in general. When you alienate people because of personal issues you have with a substance, you push them further into isolation. You can cause that person to lose self-esteem and stop caring themselves in the way that everyone should care about themselves which can cause them to fall into heavier use. Addiction is already a messy and confusing world for the person who is living in it, hostility only worsens the situation.
Reserve you judgement and examine your biases. Express your worries, be clear and persistent. Offer help, support, treatment options and love. Save a life.

EMPOWERing Youth: Youth Artists for HIV Prevention

For Immediate Release

January 17, 2011, Toronto, Ontario — Calling all youth peer educators! This release announces the launch of Empower: An HIV Capacity Building Project for Youth by Youth, a one-year project made possible by a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario. Bringing together diverse Toronto youth, Empower will train peer educators to use a community-arts based approach to HIV prevention and other sexual health issues. The project, which will run until December 1, 2011, is a collaboration between Central Toronto Community Health Centres, the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE), and Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention (GAAP).

“Education is a key part of HIV prevention,” says Rosario Marchese, Member of Provincial Parliament for Trinity-Spadina,. “Art is an incredible education medium, that’s why Empower is such a powerful tool within our community. If you can grab people’s attention to engage youth about HIV, then your message will be much more effective. Especially when you use youth educators to convey that message.”

Inspired by the success of “Empower: Youth, Arts, and Activism – An HIV/AIDS Arts Activism Manual for Youth by Youth,” this complementary project will train youth to use art as a tool for social change. Participants will include youth of colour, street-involved youth, lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirited, transgender and queer youth, youth living with HIV, and Aboriginal youth. Initially, 10 young people between the ages of 16 and 29, who have shown an interest in HIV issues and community engagement, will be recruited and paired with five peer education mentors. Participants will learn how to use their stories and experiences to create and deliver arts-based workshops and resources to their own communities, and will create digital stories sharing their experiences as HIV peer educators.

As part of our commitment to connecting youth-serving HIV projects, opportunities for networking and knowledge exchange will be coordinated with like-minded programs in the City of Toronto. Aside from the program’s core training initiative, Empower will also work in the following areas:

Community Consultation:

To get feedback on training curriculum and set a plan for ongoing collaboration, we will be hosting a community consultation between youth-serving HIV and sexual health projects in Toronto. This meeting will also be an opportunity for participants and mentors to share creative ideas for arts-based HIV prevention with youth.


Capacity-Building Training and Digital Storytelling:

The eight week-capacity building program will give youth the tools to build skills, make art, and share their digital story. Specific activities will include:

  • Attending fieldtrips to local organizations (an “Art Bus Tour”)
  • Participating in community arts, knowledge and skill-based workshops (anti-oppression, HIV/AIDS and sexual health 101, harm reduction, facilitation, photography, theatre etc.)
  • Creating arts-based community-specific workshops on HIV and sexual health
  • Creating digital stories on youth engagement and HIV
  • Showcasing work in a community forum

Get Involved!

Are you a community organization working with youth around HIV? We want to hear from you! For more information about the project, please contact Sarah Switzer, Empower Project Coordinator at 416-703-8480, ext. 143 or by email at sswitzer@ctchc.comWe will be posting application information for participants in February, 2011.

To see what we’ve done in the past, check out our website or download a copy of Empower: Youth, Arts and Activism through the CATIE ordering centre at





New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year TRIP!sters!!!!


For some, the coming of a new year signifies partying hard, staying up all night chatting with friends new and old and watching the sun rise as you remember the good and bad times that the previous year irrevocably handed you. For others, the new year signifies a time for reflection, particularly when you realize that certain parts of your life are going to change wether it be simply growing up, becoming a new parent, getting a new job (or accomplishing more at one you're at ) starting school ( or trying to stay in school ) or dealing with disease.

Mental health is as important as physical health and can even have a direct affect on your physical health. Consuming any substance will have an affect on your over all health so it is crucial that you keep in check with your consumption and take the time to ask yourself questions concerning your use.

These can be:

  • Am I using more lately?
  • Have I been spending a larger sum of my income on using?
  • Am I feeling more anxious then usual?
  • Has my consumption interfered with things I am trying to accomplish?
  • Is it becoming harder to say no to drugs and alcohol even when I know that it will affect my performance in the near future?
  • Have I been tired lately from lack of sufficient sleep? How has this affected my performance?
  • Has this resulted in negative feelings about myself and a lack of self-esteem?
  • Have I lost touch with past hobbies that I enjoyed?
  • Have I missed important appointments with doctors or counselors?

By taking a look at your consumption patterns you can learn a lot about yourself and start to make decisions that benefit you the most in the long term.  Remember, setting out goals can help with the decisions you want to  make for yourself! Little steps at first can make a huge difference in the end that can help you get to where you're going. Dealing with anxiety, depression and nervousness or plain old fatigue brought on from consumption can make it hard to accomplish certain tasks and discourage from pursuing your dreams head on and dealing with your responsibilities. Taking breaks between use and reflecting once the party has come to an end will boost your health and help you be all you can be!

For more info on making healthier harm reduction resolutions, check out our Safer Partying section!

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