Learn from others
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portuguese harm reduction and drug checking organisation Kosmicare kept essential services running and extended its online activities. Its webinars are available online including one about the effects of the pandemic in the night life sector.
Kosmicare has a permanent drop-in center in Lisbon, where users can get harm reduction materials, talk about substances and harm reduction tips, get their drugs tested and also have counselling regarding difficult experiences with substances or managing their consumptions.
Due to the strict social distancing measurements, we had to adapt the way our drop-in runs to the new situation. We created a contingency plan regarding social distancing and hygiene measurements, to ensure the drop-in runs accordingly to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health. Since the closing of borders and market changes can increase the risk of substance misrepresentation and adulteration, we kept the drug checking service open, but users had to schedule an hour for collection to avoid gatherings. To prevent further dislocations by users to collect their results, we were giving them via phone. Also to understand the impact of Covid-19 in the supply and demand sides of the informal drug market, and adapt its responses to the pandemic and post-pandemic periods in Southern European countries, Kosmicare in a partnership with Energy Control from Spain an Neutravel from Italy have surveyed around 3000 of its beneficiaries.
Given that the most vulnerable to drug market changes and subsequent shortages and adulteration are people with problematic and regular substance use, Kosmicare is working with the General Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (SICAD) and other organizations to develop an adaptation of the drug checking service that would reach these communities.
The counselling service was maintained online, either via phone or video call. In order to keep in touch with users and also be able to answer doubts and questions during this time, we created a digital InfoHub via Instastories, where we answer their questions. We also produced and shared harm reduction tips for taking substances during social isolation.
We organized a series of webinars, and adapted them to a podcast version, which we named “Trips to The Zone”.
Together with European queer collectives, we created Ravelength, a project aimed to generate free-access tools for harm reduction, relief and empowerment within the queerfeminist raver communities, in response to the increased pressure and lack of community support caused by COVID-19.