Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic to problematic drug use and Harm Reduction responses in Porto and Lisbon - a comparative analysis
The goal of this research project was to analyse the drug-related risks that emerged or were aggravated during the covid-19 pandemic outbreak. It aimed also to describe and map the measures and intervention strategies implemented by the Harm reduction teams, in Lisbon and Porto, to mitigate the impacts of covid-19 among their beneficiaries.
This was a qualitative study based in: - Semi-structured interviews targeting an intentional sample composed of marginalised people who use drugs (PWUD) in the cities of Porto (n=10) and Lisbon (n=10) - Two focus group with harm reduction professionals working in Porto (n=6) and in Lisbon (n=6) that were involved in the implementation of outreach responses targeting PWUD during the pandemic. Preliminary data demonstrates that: - Covid-19 had specific impacts in the lifestyle, living conditions and wellbeing of PWUD living in the two cities under analysis. PWUD had their social and health vulnerabilities aggravated and these impacted their drug use patterns, self and collective care practices and access to social and health services. - The restriction measures implemented to prevent the spread of Covid-19 affected harm reduction teams, affecting the outreach dynamics and the resources available to support PWUD, but also increased creativity and innovation in adjusting and creating tailored responses for PWUD during the pandemic. - Different political attitudes towards drug use influenced different tailored responses for PWUD during the pandemic in Porto and Lisbon. In Porto, the overall repressive strategy increased the vulnerabilities of PWUD while in Lisbon the municipality allocated resources to support implementation of humanistic and innovative harm reduction approaches.
Harm reduction teams had a 'cushion effect', mitigating the impacts of covid-19 among their beneficiaries. However, different local policy attitudes towards drug use influenced the allocation of resources to support PWUD during the pandemic in the two cities analysed.