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Dear reader

Welcome to the Mixmag Drugs Survey 2012  in partnership with the Guardian. This year we hope to produce the biggest - and first truly global - survey of drug use amongst young people, clubbers and the wider drug using population ever conducted. It takes about 10-20 minutes to fill in, is completely anonymous and by being part of it, you could help change the world.

That's because the Mixmag / Guardian Drugs survey is where the world goes to find out real peoples' attitudes to and experience of drugs, and the medical, social and law enforcement consequences of drug use. The survey has been used by doctors, academics, and even governments across the planet to understand drug trends, to influence policy and to inform their decisions.

The analysis is performed by a team of doctors and scientists, using the highest professional research standards, to get to the real truth about drugs.

The results of this survey will be published in the April 2012 issue of Mixmag, at, and in the Guardian's UK [] and US [ ] online editions.

For any questions please contact Dr Adam R Winstock at

Toronto Youth Drug Survey

Drug Survey

Over the years, TRIP! has actively kept track of drug trends in the Toronto dance music community.  TRIP! volunteers from SEED Alternative School are keeping up this trend with their community-based survey for their course 'Challenge and Change in a Diverse Society'.  The purpose of this survey is to find out what your stance on harm reduction is. We also hope to collect data on whether you think it would benefit Torontonians (and society in general) in making better choices while partying and in turn, helping them become healthier individuals with productive lifestyles. They would really appreciated it if you would help them with their study of youth and harm reduction. Check out the survey by clicking the links below, and read up more on harm reduction below!  


Note: Links to parts 2 and 3 are contained in the survey.


Recreational drug use has become a common source of entertainment and enjoyment here in Toronto. From drugs like alcohol and tobacco to drugs like ecstasy and heroin. Unfortunately, most health campaigns geared at youth are fear-based and speak only of abstinence with captions like “Just say no”. What the promoters of these campaigns fail to recognize is that people are curious and many will use drugs either way. Instead of this abstinence-only approach, information should be provided to encourage those who choose to use drugs to use them in a safer manner, thus reducing harm. 

“Harm reduction” is the term used to describe the practice of spreading techniques and information with the purpose of improving quality of life and reducing chance of injury. Accidental deaths from motor vehicle accidents make up 32% of deaths in Canada in 2004 (Stats Canada). However, you don’t see campaigns that say “Just say no” regarding driving. Instead, there is a law in Ontario that says you must wear a seat belt when in a personal, motorized vehicle - this is a form of harm reduction. 

Like the car drivers, youth are going to use drugs regardless whether society shakes a finger at them or not. Health education should be focusing on actually educating, rather than trying to scare people into stopping. We should be educating youth about the risks associated with drug use and try to empower them to use critical thinking and make informed decisions that will better their mind and body. The main goal of harm reduction is to lower risk levels of current drug users, as well as getting these individuals familiarized with health care services (including recovery upon request). Harm reduction education can also minimize drug misuse/abuse within society, improving over health in our communities. At the end of the day, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped and labelling people as “addicts” and “junkies” does not help the situation. When people are sharing needles, straws, and pipes the greatest risk is the diseases, viruses, and infections that can be transmitted in this manner, NOT the drugs. Educating these users on how to use drugs in a safer manner and where clean needs are available could be the way to save many lives, and maybe even rehabilitate people. 


World AIDS Day 2011Brought to you by GAAP (New College) and Empower and TRIP! (Central Toronto Community Health Centres)

- Light refreshments and condom cupcakes will be served!
- Sexy condom art!

- We will be visiting a number of sexual resource centres that cater specifically to youth as we make our way to Queen West Community Health Centre.
- Chalk art and conversation along the way!

*We’ll be travelling to Queen West Community Health Centre by foot. If you want to travel with us, but require supports to do so, contact us and we can make accommodations.*

- ALL ARE WELCOME to a film screening on HIV/AIDS!
(NOTE: while space is limited for the walking tour and dinner, all are welcome to view the films at 6:30)
- Empower Digital Stories: 8 short films produced by youth through the Empower project that deal with diverse themes surrounding HIV/AIDS and the social determinants of health
- Candlelight Vigil at the Russian Embassy: a short interview documentary with activists about the need for harm reduction programs to fight HIV/AIDS



SPACE IS LIMITED! You are welcome to join us for the walking tour, films, or both. FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO REGISTER CONTACT:
(Please register! RSVPing to the Facebook event does not mean you are registered!)

This event is funded by the New College Principal's Innovation Fund.

Dark Side of the Night

 I woke up once on the front landing on a Queen West apartment building. It was late November, and nearly 4 am. I was by myself, and didn't have my purse. I was underdressed beneath my coat, and hungry. I walked in to a 24hr coffee shop, and felt sorry for the woman who had to work the late night shift. In retrospect, she probably felt sorry for me too. A man bought me a sandwich, and we sat together while I ate it and he drank coffee. I dont remember our conversation, but I do remember finding a camping light in my coat pocket as we spoke. I thanked him and left, then grabbed a cab home.

Now, you don't need to tell me I'm luck that I didn't “get hurt” that night. Because I did, I got very hurt. I got all sorts of hurt, the kind of hurt that lasts for years and resurfaces particularly painfully when you're asked to write something about sexual assault and nightlife. What had prompted me to leave in a hurry, such hurry that I had left my purse sitting on a bench where I had placed it so I could attempt to dance, was aggressive touching and kissing from someone had that I had had a brief and somewhat forced relationship with in the past. I remember trying to break lose, and the grip only tightening. 

The thing with nightlife, especially in Toronto, is that there is no escaping the past. You will see the same people over and over again, and you can never know if the night will bring an unwanted encounter. You may be uncomfortably caught in a dark room, yelling no over the music, always hoping that they acted because they simply never heard you. Those whom you thought had disappeared, will reappear. You may be left vulnerable and alone when you try to escape, and the people who will see you may never know what happened. But they will think that what they know is that your skirt was too short, you were breast were too big, and you were wearing too much make up.

The records get erased. Reviews, and pictures rarely hold the truth about the dark side of the night. When it comes down to it, talking about sexual assault is “bad for business” and nightlife is supposed to be business that revolves around fantasy and fun, a refuge from the day. The biggest lie is that the complications of day won't seep in to the night. The reality is that they do. The same inequitable gender dynamics that live during the day do not die at night. And I believe that we've had enough.

I think it's time to talk.  

Five things we learned at the Toronto Safer Nightlife Forum

Can Toronto's clubland chaos be reined in?

TRIP! ProjectFour stakeholders in Toronto’s nightlife community—Yamina-Sara Chekroun (youth-outreach worker/event promoter), Nav Sangha (DJ/venue owner), Mike Homewood (Homewood Security) and Samantha Wells (Centre for Addiction & Mental Health)—came together yesterday at the King West Hyatt Regency to take part in an informative and lively panel discussion moderated by entertainment lawyer and film impresario, Jerry Levitan. A crowd of 70-odd students, club operators, fun-loving partiers, and security- and law-enforcement professionals came out to share their concerns and offer suggestions for managing issues like sexual aggression and illicit drug use in Toronto’s club community. These were the most pertinent talking points:

1. Pay your security staff better

Surly security staff might take a courteous change of heart if they were paid better. “A security guard makes $13-$20 an hour, and that doesn’t include their license, which costs upwards to $500,” said Homewood. As well, some security might be less committed to their job since many only work for extra cash on the weekends. But, at the end of the day, it’s the bar owners that dictate what type of behaviour is acceptable.

2. Clubbers need better education

“When you turn 19, you go to the club and that’s all you know,” said Arthur Geringas, General Manager at Richmond Street’s Club XS. “Unfortunately, the stereotypes are true: 905ers just have less education on these issues—they should be taught effects of drugs and alcohol in school so that they can behave better.” Susan Shepherd, of The Toronto Drug Strategy, piped in: “But there is no mandatory drug education in public schools past Grade 9.”

3. Social media is for more than just event promotion

Along with being a DJ, owner of Wrongbar and co-owner of The Great Hall, Sangha is also something of a social-media creeper.  “I came mostly as an observer, to listen to the voice of the youth. They are very no-holds-barred when it comes to expressing their opinions. It’s so important to be monitoring all avenues, especially social media, because it’s not like nightclubs have suggestion boxes.”

4. Toronto is stuck in the past

Toronto still carries a lot of Prohibition-era baggage that prevents progressive thinking. It’s illegal to be drunk in public, even in bars and clubs, according theAlcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).  “We don’t make the rules, we just enforce them,” said a representative. The situation creates a catch-22 for bar owners who will often toss out inebriated patrons into the cold, without their jackets and belongings, so as to not risk a fine.

5. The kids like to drink

According to the Toronto Safer Nightlife survey, which polled over 300 Toronto club goers aged 19-29, 90 per cent of participants admitted to drinking before going out to the club. About half of the partiers said they down three to five before heading out, most claiming high bar prices as a reason. (Side note: binge drinking isdefined by Toronto Public Health authorities as five or more drinks in one sitting.) When it came to describing their drinking habits at the club, respondents claimed they drank till they felt “drunk enough” (62 per cent), till they ran out of money (36 per cent), till last call (34 per cent) or till they felt ill (32 per cent)—that is, if they weren’t among those who “go all night” (40 per cent).

Toronto Safer Nightlife Forum

Tuesday November 8, 2011
2:30pm – 6:00pm

Hyatt Regency Hotel
Regency Ballroom B
370 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario

Join us for a conversation with youth and bar/club operators about safety issues in Toronto’s nightlife scene. Topics include pre-drinking, illicit drugs, sexual aggression and strategies for reducing harm. Come out and share your views and ideas for creating safer bars and clubs.

Jerry Levitan (lawyer, musician and Academy Award nominee) will moderate the forum. Speakers include Yamina-Sara Chekroun (youth outreach worker/event promoter), Nav Sangha (venue owner/DJ), Mike Homewood (Homewood Security) and Samantha Wells (Centre for Addiction & Mental Health).

Featuring DJs and light refreshments.

RSVP on Facebook @

This event is brought to you by the Toronto Safer Nightlife Committee comprised of youth, TRIP!, Toronto Public Health, the Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, Asian Community AIDS Services, the Entertainment District Business Improvement Area, the Parkdale Village Business Improvement Area, the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Social Development, Finance & Administration and Municipal Licensing & Standards.

Dance Drugs and Harm Reduction

This morning we had the honour of presenting at the Centre for Additions and Mental Health on Dance Drugs and Harm Reduction.  Feel free to check out our presentation and share it with your friends, family and service providers.  

Just say no... to stigma!

 Health education can be tricky. There's many factors to consider when implementing a public health campaign. Demographic of the target audience and the right tone when addressing this audience is key. Oftentimes, especially with campaigns geared at youth and drug use things get topsy-turvy. The wrong tone can mean an ineffective, often counterproductive campaign. Anti-oppression should be a core value of all education. Judgement and/or discrimination needs to be avoided at all costs. Education is key and honesty goes a long way. This seems pretty simple and straight-forward, right?

Unfortunately, many health campaigns geared at youth do the exact opposite. Many drug prevention efforts rely on scare tactics and abstinence-based “Just Say No” approaches. Youth who use drugs will do so regardless of whether society shakes the finger at them or not. Things aren't white and black, people partake in different risks therefore health education should cater to all sorts of individuals. People who use drugs get shunned, marginalized, pushed out of society and left feeling guilty about their lifestyle. Health education should focus on the education rather than on trying to scare people straight. We should be teaching people about the risks associated with different activities, and encourage critical thinking in order to empower individuals to make informed choices that affect their bodies and minds.

There is an unspoken tension in the social service sector between substance prevention and harm reduction tactics. This is counterproductive. Harm reduction's main mandate is to lower risk levels of current drug users, as well as getting individuals into and familiarized with the healthcare system and providing referrals to other health services including recovery upon request. The main mandate for prevention is to minimize drug misuse/abuse within society and thus improve the overall health of our communities. These two philosophies to healthcare can and should be adjacent. 

However, many prevention campaigns still continue to use scare tactics and demonize drug use and drug users. Instead, prevention should focus on recovery services for those who are ready and willing to get help. Not every person who uses drugs is an addict and society can't impose the same standards for everyone. The best way to identify a problematic drug habit is by the individual after proactive self-reflection. You can't help someone who doesn't want help and labelling people as “addicts” or “junkies” further oppresses those who use drugs. Harm reduction should be seen as secondary prevention. It is crucial to provide healthcare services for individuals who use drugs since oftentimes the ritual or way of consuming certain substances is far riskier and detrimental to the individual and society's overall health than the drug itself. A great example of this is sharing needles, straws, pipes and works. All these activities put individuals at risk of transmitting a virus that is a far greater risk than the drugs being used.

We need to be progressive with health education not retrogressive. I encourage you to think twice before bashing crucial, essential and much needed harm reduction services and when implementing prevention campaigns. We need to start thinking about people being affected by these issues with more care, diligence and an open mind. Next time you see a person who uses drugs, think about why they are where they are in life rather than blaming it on their use and walking past blindly. 

TRIP!Apparel Officially Launched!

Save the Date! TRIP! Project Training in Mexico City

Wish You Were Here


Join us in Mexico City to learn more about drug policy and how youth can advocate for social change! Featuring youth activists from Espolea , TRIP! and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.  All youth are welcome to learn and strategize on how we can transform drug policy.

 Sign up online here

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