Back to top

The Hamilton Designer Drug Harm Reduction Action Group

I Introduction

On April 17, 2000 a recommendation report was submitted to the then Regional Council of Hamilton-Wentworth concerning rave dance parties and designer drug use. In that report, it was recommended " that the Medical Officer of Health [MOH] be authorized and directed to work with local agencies and stakeholders to promote and distribute educational materials about the risks of designer drug use." At the time there was a group, comprised of a variety of community agencies and municipal departments, that was looking at the issue of all night dance events in the community. As this group included representation from the Social and Public Health Services Department, the membership chose to take on the task of researching the MOH's recommendation. That group came to be known as the Designer Drug Harm Reduction Action Group (DDHRAG).

II The Process

The DDHRAG met regularly throughout 2000, deciding upon the topics for the pamphlets, the philosophical orientation, and the format. Six topics were chosen: ecstasy, GHB, crystal, ketamine, rape drugs, and a general pamphlet on designer drugs. It was decided early on that the most appropriate orientation for the pamphlets would be a harm reduction perspective. The format would have to be pocket-sized rather than the standard 8 1/2 X 11 folded thrice.

By the end of 2000, completed drafts of each of the six pamphlets were available for focus testing. A protocol was developed including a standardized questionnaire and a consent form. Because of the harm reduction approach, a series of questions were included that gauged respondents' impressions about possible effects of the pamphlets. Specifically, they were asked if they thought that the information would encourage themselves, or others, to use. Results indicated that none of the respondents felt that the information would make it more likely for people to use. More detailed results are available to those interested by contacting Lawrence Murphy (see below).

A local nightclub owner who had been involved with the action group in its earlier incarnation agreed to allow us to approach patrons in line at his club to review the pamphlets. Those who agreed received free admission to the club and were allowed to jump the queue. Residence managers at the local university were contacted and agreed to facilitate an evening focus group with students in residence. Also involved were agencies serving street youth and several local high schools.

In early 2001, the pamphlets were focus tested with the above mentioned groups. In all, 49 individuals were consulted. The action group met again and much of the feedback was integrated into the final product. In particular, the language was simplified, medical terms and other jargon was replaced, and sentences were shortened and the number of bulleted items increased. As well, a local printer was contacted and vibrant Day-Glo papers were found to be used for the pamphlets.

A final draft was then produced and placed on the web for review by the membership. Concerns about others finding the site using Internet search engines were addressed by placing an underscore before the name of the directory and page that the action group wished hidden. An underscore makes the item invisible to search engines (for example, the subdirectory and the webpage it contains in the following site would be hidden: Final review included feedback from a pharmacist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. This and others' feedback was integrated into the final pamphlet and a simple website was built that included PDF versions of each of the pamphlets, a FAQ page, and an online order form. Orders were solicited through this eBulletin, as well as a handful of other channels.

One of the unique aspects of these pamphlets lies in the opportunity for agencies ordering the pamphlets to customize the community, and Internet, resource sections. Because the pamphlets are printed using a highly sophisticated digital printer, alterations to the original pamphlet do not represent a prohibitive cost increase for consumers. Thus, Public Health Units in jurisdictions outside of Hamilton can provide their own resources for inclusion on the pamphlet. This is in contrast to the traditional approach in which resources are left off pamphlets and only information is included.

Orders can still be filled by pointing one's browser to the URL listed in OHPE 225.2.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

III Program/Organization Description

The DDHRAG is comprised of a variety of agencies and individuals. Although the group does not have a chair or operate within a hierarchical structure, the contact for the purposes of ordering pamphlets or asking questions is

Lawrence Murphy, MA

Substance Abuse Prevention Promoter

Healthy Lifestyles and Disease Prevention

Social and Public Health Services Department

Upper Ottawa Office

71 Main St. West, L8P 4Y5

Hamilton, ON

Tel: (905) 546-3509

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *