Government could be changing perspective on drug use
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
With the number of fentanyl related deaths and injuries continuing to increase, it appears health officials, police, and government officials are beginning to address the problem.
Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner from BC’s coroner’s office, revealed in a news conference that 488 people have died in fentanyl-related deaths in BC this year. This compares to the 505 deaths that occurred in 2015, according to CBC.
Lapointe told CTV that while fentanyl continues to take a high toll in the province, very few of the deaths are caused by people using fentanyl on its own. That means that fentanyl is being laced within other recreational drugs, especially in cocaine. Lapointe mentioned that fentanyl was detected in 60 per cent of these drugs. A CBC report from August 31 suggested that up to 86 per cent of illicit substances contained fentanyl.
Meanwhile, there is a public service video being prepared by the provincial government regarding drug use. The video features harm reduction activist Leslie McBain, who lost her son to an overdose. The video will focus on approaching drug users with compassion rather than contempt.
McBain told CTV that she believes having non-judgemental and educational discussions with loved ones about drug use will be far more effective than conversations fuelled with scare tactics and prohibition.
McBain is but one concerned voice in the fentanyl crisis. There has been an influx of concern, especially after 9 overdoses were reported within 20 minutes in Delta on August 31. There were no fatalities. Police believed the overdose victims not to be addicts, but casual users.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this. Handcuffs are not the solution here and we need to be able to engage other parts of the system,” Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord told the Vancouver Sun.
Two public forums on fentanyl were hosted in both South Delta and North Delta in wake of the overdoses, attended by parents, students, and other members of the community.
Nalaxone, which is an antidote that can stop an ongoing fentanyl overdose, has helped ease the severity of the crisis from worsening. It has been used to reverse 2,149 overdoses in BC, and is now being sold outside of pharmacies. It is also being carried by first responders, according to CTV.
Insite, a safe injection site located in Vancouver, provided free drug testing on substances from July 7–August 9 as part of a pilot program, according to CBC.
While these measures may help ease the number of deaths, Dr. Bernie Pauly from the Centre for Addictions Research of BC said that there is still much more to be done, looking to the federal government.
“This is a social issue, so we need to look at decriminalization and regulation of drugs,” Pauly told CTV. “That’s the policy discussion I haven’t seen starting yet.”