Today, December 1st, is the internationally recognized World AIDS Day (WAD). It is a day to reflect and unite in the fight against HIV & AIDS*- an auto-immune disease affecting over 38 million people worldwide; and also one of the most discriminated and stigmatized widespread diseases. HIV & AIDS was identified in the mid-80s’ as an illness spread through contact with blood, semen and vaginal fluids (transmission commonly occurring via anal or vaginal sex, sharing injectables). It was instantly projected as a “queer” disease, as a large portion of those affected were gay men and trans women. This labelling caught the attention from malicious homophobes/transphobes, which transpired into mass anti-queer rhetoric, propaganda and mass hysteria. This discriminatory attitude was adopted by many medical teams across the globe, resulting in slower and more hesitant trials of treatment for the condition. Many lost their lives and loved ones in this time due to misinformation, lack of details surrounding the disease and also blatant neglect from healthcare. Continue reading
Need in the Time of COVID
Sometimes the pressures of existing can begin to weigh heavily on us and we start to consider that we may need to ask for a little help from our loved ones. Maybe it’s because we have a lot on our plate just by nature of who we are and the world we live in. Other times we are those people that are seemingly so full of strength and energy to those who need a helping hand, so much so that they don’t hesitate to ask when they need support. Frequently though, it feels like I am perpetually and simultaneously in both states of existence; always overwhelmed by the needs of others and constantly considering asking for help in managing my own needs because of it. I’ve come to realise that I have a complicated relationship with needing, being needed, and asking for help. I wonder often whether I use helping others to distract myself from helping myself. Then I feel bad about asking for support because I might not have had to, were I putting my own oxygen mask on first. Maybe this is ok, though. Realistically, we all go through times when we have the energy to spare for the needs of others and times when we need help coping ourselves.
We’re now well into year three of a pandemic that has vastly changed our lives in many obvious but also many subtle ways. The ways in which we all interact with each other have been strained and altered. Physical touch in a greeting has become a bit of an awkward dance of managing people’s comfort levels. At least, dramatically more so than it was before all this. Being isolated at home has become the default for many, making connecting in the real world all the more challenging and exhausting. Social landscapes have changed: two years away from consistent partying has meant that many of your friends have taken the opportunity to leave that part of their lives behind. Maybe many others spent the past two years getting “too” wrapped up in their substance use (something we each get to define for ourselves, of course) during a time when it felt like the “rules” had changed or were no longer applicable. Perhaps you are one of these two kinds of people, or perhaps somehow you are both. Either way, the nature of being there for each other has changed as well. Continue reading
Volunteer with the Trip! Project!
Spring training is in session starting Thurs Sept 15th!!
The Trip! Project volunteer training involves a weekly training course every spring & fall which features workshops on various topics related to harm reduction, HIV & Hep C prevention, sexual health and safer partying. You do not need to be knowledgeable about all of these topics already – this is a learning opportunity as well as a knowledge sharing one!
Currently most trainings are in person at Queen & Bathurst, as well as in person meetings, community workshops and event outreach. Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centres where Trip! is based currently require volunteers to be fully vaccinated or have an exemption notice <3
In highschool? Get your volunteer hours with us!
Get up to 20 hours from the trainings alone, and get more hours for participating in other project activities like doing outreach at nightlife and community events, social media content creation (Instagram, Reels, TikTok, etc.), writing & taking photos for our blog, making kits for youth (safer party kits, self care kits, art kits, kandi jam kits), attending harm reduction art or mental health drop-ins or zoom-ins with other like-minded youth and attending planning meetings, community workshops or hosting your own! As mentioned above, you don’t have to know about harm reduction or safer partying already – this is a great place to learn about it and bring info back to your friends and community – Just say KNOW! <3
To be eligible for our volunteer program you must:
- be between the ages of 16-29 (If you are older than 30 please email or apply anyway, priorities are given to youth due to our youth-specific funding, but we do have some incredible 30+ team members)
- currently connected to at least one community of young people who might use substances in Toronto, from underground nightlife to house parties to queer events to dances to sex workers to homeless & underhoused youth to Indigenous, Black and youth of colour or other communities of youth who party!
- be able to attend trainings & team meetings in Toronto on Thursday evenings, 6-8pm
- jive with our harm reduction philosophy
- have a fun and open attitude, a willingness to learn, and be able to contribute time and energy to the project on a regular basis
Please apply here!
Email email@example.com for more info 🙂
Feel free to share this post with friends and networks!
Job Posting for Community Researcher – Trip! Project Evaluation
Part-time Contract Position
The Centre for Community Based Research (CCBR) is an independent, non-profit organization
with almost 40 years of experience in community research. CCBR, in partnership with the Trip!
Project at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre is seeking to hire a community
researcher to assist with participatory evaluation of Trip!. The Trip! Project is a youth-led harm
reduction health information service for the dance music scene and youth who use drugs. Trip!
provides workshops, trains peer educators and volunteers, operates outreach booths, and uses
social media to engage with partiers.
Under the guidance of a multi-stakeholder steering committee, CCBR and Trip! will work
together to co-design and conduct a community-based evaluation to explore the alignment
between the Trip! program and current drug using trends amongst diverse young people. The
evaluation will inform recommendations for future program delivery.
The peer researcher will act as a co-researcher at each stage of the evaluation. Peer
researchers are essential to participatory research as they bring invaluable knowledge and
expertise through their lived experience. The term “peer researcher” can mean many different
things depending on the context. In this project, we use the term “peer” to refer to a young
person (under the age of 30) who has drug use experience. Ideally, we’re also looking for
someone who has had some experience (past or present) with the Trip! program but this is not
mandatory. Continue reading
Opioid MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment)
So….we live in the time where Opioid MAT is a thing. Let’s explore it. Opioid MAT stands for Medication Assisted Treatment and, in this case, refers to drugs that work on the opioid receptors in the brain that are used to ease/prevent opioid withdrawal in folks who are physically dependent on them. Opioid MAT are often taken along with therapy and/or support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, S.M.A.R.T. Recovery, etc. Opioid MAT drugs prevent cravings and withdrawal, while simultaneously not getting the person “high” while taking it.
The Power of Breath
What is something that you know that you think the world needs more knowledge of?
For me it is BREATHWORK. Breathing… everyday breath.
Seems silly? Yes. But also, the work of our breath is so important and sometimes we forget to just catch our breath.
When going through a stressful day, we need to calm ourselves down with breathing. When anxiety begins to rise, we need to focus on our breathing. If we feel trapped, we need to lengthen our breathing.
Breathing is a part of our everyday living, but the way we use techniques actually can help us better our mental health, but also depending on the length of breath you can change your energy from calm to awake or vice versa.
Our nervous system is made up of two factors: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. Our SNS is involved with excitement, flight, fight or freeze. Whereas our PNS is calm, relax, rest and digest.
While using the breathwork system and focusing within our breath we are able to create either more energy, relaxation or just simple balance.
You want to keep it simple. Box breathing is a great technique to come back to the present moment. This is where you imagine there are 4 points (like a box). You’d breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4 and hold for 4, then repeat. You would repeat this until you have come back to center and a stillness wave.
When learning how to regulate our nervous system, we are developing a connection between our mind and body.
When using drugs, we sometimes have outer body experiences. This may be great for some, but others may not enjoy. It is keen to remember the power of breathing to bring us back to our center. If feeling overwhelmed, use the box breathing technique. Take longer breaths to calm your nervous system.
If you are out and trying a sober night but need energy, quicker breaths will form a more upbeat rhythm to keeping us awake.
We use our breath to survive.
Breathe In. Breathe Out.
By: Nicole N, a Trip! Peer
Decriminalization: A Not-So-Hot Take
There’s been a pretty big development in drug decriminalization in Canada! By now many of you have probably heard the announcement made by the federal government that British Columbia will be the first province to decriminalize small amounts of some drugs for personal use. More specifically, “Canadians 18 years of age and older will be able to possess up to a cumulative 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA within B.C. as of Jan. 31, 2023.” This is a pilot project, where the BC government intends to keep this law in place for three years, until January 31, 2026 unless otherwise “…revoked or replaced with another exemption before that date.”
This is definitely a step in the right direction! We know that any forward movement in decriminalizing substances helps to decriminalize and destigmatize those who use drugs. BC overall, and Vancouver more specifically, have both been leading the charge in the country towards this end with the introduction of a safe supply program last summer and Vancouver’s filing for drug possession exemptions last November. Since then Toronto has filed a similar exemption request, and the same is being considered by various municipalities across the country, most notably in Hamilton, Edmonton, and Saskatoon. Also in favour of decriminalizing drugs for personal use is the Ontario NDP, which is something they say they will work towards now that they are once again the official opposition in the provincial government. The federal government has also come out saying they are open to working with various jurisdictions to expand decriminalization efforts across the country, and even the Conservatives claim to support a health-based rather than criminal approach to all substance use. However, we have yet to see progress in creating such a policy at the federal level, which is crucial given the number of opioid related deaths and continued stigma experienced across the country.
Sleep, Supplements and Sleep Hygiene:
Sleep can be a tricky thing; whether it’s falling asleep, staying asleep, being comfortable in bed, or dealing with constant fatigue. In this blogpost, we’ll cover the basics of sleep neurobiology, tips, common sleep disorders, over the counter & herbal remedies that may encourage better sleep, and additional online resources to check out.
Why is sleep important?
- Your body repairs its cells during sleep, important for wound healing, cellular regeneration, etc.
- Digestion and metabolism are affected by sleep.
- Your brain consolidates information and memories.
- People who are deprived of sleep are at a significantly higher risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and stroke.
- Too little sleep, or poor quality sleep can aggravate gastrointestinal disorders and mental health issues.
What happens when we sleep? Continue reading
Part 2: ADHD Brains
In this second part of our series on ADHD and substance use (read Part 1 here), we will be discussing the neurological aspects of ADHD. Harm reduction exists in many facets of life, and can take on many forms. Here at Trip! Project, one of the ways we practice harm reduction is through the spreading of knowledge and awareness of various substances, and phenomena related to taking/using these substances. The idea behind this is that knowledge is power! Having an awareness and understanding of the substances we take and the ways in which they interact with our brains is one way to make more informed and hopefully safer choices when it comes to substance use. The same can be said about our own brain chemistry and structure! Knowing how or why we experience the things we do can help us make informed choices and take better care of our brains.
This next installment aims to share some of the neurological aspects of ADHD to inform not only why those of us with ADHD gravitate towards the substances we do, but also to undo some of the shame and stigma associated with those habits. Some of these habits are wired into us on a neurological level! That’s not to say we have no control over our decisions or choices. Understanding why we make certain choices can go a long way in overcoming the shame many of us feel around our actions and impulses. Sometimes we all need a little reminder not to stigmatise the way that different brains operate, and to remember that trying to make changes to your mental wiring (if that’s what you want for yourself) can be incredibly challenging! So, with that, we hope to share some info on what specifically is happening on a neurological level when it comes to the ADHD experience.
Mutual-Aid Harm Reduction: Black History & Future is Love
For this February: May we not only celebrate and honour Black histories, but may we invest in Black futures also. For this Valentine’s day, may we give back, may we gift each other the flowers that we deserve, and may we love deeper in solidarity. For all of this month and beyond, let us continue to seed for change through care, as mutual-aid is indeed harm reduction in a world where it feels like there’s not enough love to live. Black folks in our communities deserve rest, justice, and recovery. We will not celebrate resilience without resistance to systematic violence. We shall remember to care for, invest in, and heartfully cherish Black presence, in all timelines and beyond, as we love towards a future that we all deserve.
Check out these upcoming events (Feb 24 & Feb 28) at NIA Centre for the Arts, a Toronto org that supports & showcases Black artists and artwork.
2 GoFundMes to Support & Share:
Justice for Moses Erhirhie
Care for Our Queer & Trans Black Friend
Black Trans Couple’s Affirmation & Survival Fund
Myles’ Gender Affirming Procedure Fund
Therapy Fund: Black, trans, ND & traumatized
Help My Mom and Her Fight against Cancer
In Memory of D’Andre A. Campbell
Written and compiled by Leon Tsai, a Trip! Peer