Professor Vanessa Gruben examines the safer supply movement as a tool to fight the opioid crisis

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Research affiliations and partnerships
Centre for Health Law
Research and innovation

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

North America’s opioid crisis has resulted in nearly 30,000 deaths since 2016 and is devastating communities across Canada. In response to escalating overdoses, Health Canada formally approved providing a “safer supply” of regulated drugs for people who are at risk of overdose from the toxic unregulated market.

While safer supply has been shown to reduce overdoses and participation in criminalized activities, it presents numerous legal, regulatory, and policy challenges. 

Numerous safe supply evaluations are underway across Canada, but more research is needed on the socio-legal, political, and regulatory impacts of such programs. Professor Vanessa Gruben has been awarded a Partnership Engage Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for a project entitled “Examining legal, regulatory, and policy considerations in Canada's safer supply movement: Developing an interdisciplinary research agenda to inform adaptation and sustainability”.  

With some groups advocating for an expansion of safer supply programs, while others are calling for a return to traditional treatments, Professor Gruben and her team are aiming to collect the emerging literature and map the debates. They will interview experts in the fields of drug policy, harm reduction, and human rights to hear what they think the barriers and facilitators are to safer supply implementation. 

SSHRC Partnership Engage Grants provide short-term support for partnered research activities that respond to the immediate needs of organizations in non-academic sectors, facilitating the exchange of unique knowledge, expertise and capabilities. Professor Gruben’s research team includes the HIV Legal Network (one of the world’s leading organizations tackling legal and human rights issues related to HIV) and interdisciplinary scholars in law, medical sociology, social work, nursing, and public health. 

Congratulations to Professor Gruben and her team on establishing this important partnership!