Health for People Who Use Drugs

Understanding cultural wellness for Indigenous people who use drugs

Canada is currently facing a drug overdose crisis. In many Indigenous communities, the crisis is driven by injection drug use, and these communities are now facing related medical complications such as HIV, HCV, abscesses, and infective endocarditis. Sociocultural determinants, including sex work, homelessness, stigma, discrimination, and disconnection from community, land, and culture are fueling the situation.

The purpose of this project is to better understand cultural wellness interventions for Indigenous people who have drug use experience. As declared in Article 24 of The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines, and to maintain their health practices.

This project is designed to be building on ancestral wisdom, community knowledge and lived experience. There will be a focus on connections to the land, as connections with the land are essential for sustaining and upholding wellness. Land-based cultural retreats are effective interventions for restoring and promoting physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Researchers on this study will employ a Two-eyed Seeing framework, where both Indigenous and Western Ways of Knowing are complementary to one another.

Anticipated objectives are to:

  1. Conduct wellness intervention research retreats for Indigenous people who have drug use experience;
  2. Facilitate Medicine Wheel Spirit Shadow Dance (MWSSD) during the wellness retreat and analyze the MWSSD within a Two-eyed Seeing approach;
  3. Guide land-based interventions during the wellness retreat, and analyze land-based healing activities within a Two-eyed Seeing approach;
  4. Facilitate post-integration sequential sharing circles after the wellness retreat;
  5. Compile, analyze and synthesize findings into oral and written reports which will be shared with various Indigenous people and organizations, health advocates, and researchers to better inform and refine future wellness, substance use and addiction interventions for Indigenous people.