Carlyn Zwarenstein

Carlyn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. She writes about pain, struggle, injustice, drugs, exile, suffering—and how to make it better. Her work has appeared in publications including the Washington Post, the Guardian and the Globe and Mail.

Her second book, On Opium, was published in Canada in September. Her memoir, Opium Eater: The New Confessions, was a Globe and Mail Best 100 book of 2016.

The Ways We “Monsterize” Drug Use, Pain and People

[This article is an adapted excerpt from On Opium: Pain, Pleasure, and Other Matters of Substance, which was published in…

November 30, 2021

Compassion Clubs Advance Toward Authorization in Vancouver

The headlines suggested that sanctioned heroin clubs were coming imminently to Vancouver, British Columbia. The truth is a little different.…

October 27, 2021

The Price of Saving a Life: Naloxone’s Cost Barrier in the US

When I walk into my local pharmacy to pick up a naloxone kit, I don’t need to present a prescription.…

April 29, 2021

How a Canadian Decriminalization Model Can Improve on Portugal

Isolation, drug-supply disruptions and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have sent North America’s already-high overdose rates soaring. Here in…

October 6, 2020

Housing First and the Homelessness Crisis: What Went Wrong?

"The homeless crisis interested me,” says Mary Duffy of the time before she herself became homeless in Texas. “I wouldn’t…

July 23, 2020

The Pandemic Accelerates the Rise⁠—and Criminalization⁠—of Tent Cities

Just before we went into lockdown, I visited Sanctuary, a homelessness organization in Toronto, to interview people with experience of…

June 17, 2020

The Mischaracterized Relationship Between Drug Use and Homelessness

“Six months ago Jonny Brown admits he was in a dark place. Addicted to drugs, he'd lost his house and…

May 21, 2020

Five of the Ways Unsanctioned Harm Reduction Continues to Blaze Trails

Unsanctioned grassroots initiatives—from the unofficial to the plain illegal—are both the origins and the soul of the harm reduction movement.…

August 22, 2019

Harm Production: Ontario’s Brutal Cuts Add Fuel to the Overdose Fire

Viewed from the United States, Canada’s comparatively liberal social mores and universal healthcare would seem to set the stage for…

June 11, 2019