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City supports making drug checking widely available as overdose deaths continue

May 18 2017 Could lead to reducing number of overdoses

"We desperately need a new approach from the next provincial government because the previous BC Liberal government's inaction has been a human catastrophe - more than 1,000 British Columbians dead in the past year."

Group of people being trained to give Naloxone

The City strongly supports scaling up access to drug testing technology following a recent pilot project at Insite that found when drug users knew their drugs contained fentanyl, they were more likely to decrease their dose and less likely to have an overdose. 

A record 154 deaths for 2017

Vancouver saw six more overdose deaths last week, bringing the total to a record 154 deaths so far for 2017.

"There are already 154 opioid overdose deaths in Vancouver this year and no signs that BC's status quo plan will make things better," says Mayor Gregor Robertson. "We desperately need a new approach from the next provincial government because the previous BC Liberal government's inaction has been a human catastrophe - more than 1,000 British Columbians dead in the past year.

"Our residents are literally dying waiting for both treatment options that will get them off dangerous street drugs and save their lives, and immediate interventions like expanded drug testing that reduce overdoses. Whether the next provincial government is comprised of BC Liberal, NDP or Green party members, our province urgently needs a government that will dramatically expand treatment and prevention to immediately save lives and connect people with the medical supports they need."

Insite pilot project

The pilot project took place over a nine-month period (July 2016 to March 2017) at Insite, North America's first legal supervised injection site, operating under a constitutional exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. 

Results found that 79% of drugs checked were positive for fentanyl, including:

  • 83% of heroin samples
  • 82% of crystal meth
  • 40% of cocaine

Drugs were checked more than 1,000 times.

Insite will continue to offer fentanyl checks and results will continue to be monitored, with results posted regularly at Insite for clients to view.

Results of the pilot project were presented at the Harm Reduction International conference in Montreal earlier this week. Rick Lines, executive director of Harm Reduction International, said the study "proves that the alarm bells that have been sounding over this public health emergency are fully warranted."

Supervised injection sites

Nationally, Health Canada has approved additional two supervised injection sites in Montreal, highlighting that harm reduction facilities can help decrease the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence from drug use. 

Vancouver Coastal Health applied for two new supervised injection sites in Vancouver in October 2016, which have still not been approved by Health Canada.

May 8 to 14: 109 overdose calls

Locally, for the week of May 8 to 14, Vancouver Police Department reported six overdose deaths and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services reported 109 overdose calls. 

The City is calling on the Province to urgently provide adequate funding for interventions needed to save lives. 

Drug users need access to opioid assisted therapy-including injectable options, and to emerging innovations like drug testing technology.

André Picard: Vancouver's drug crisis public event

On May 24, Mayor Gregor Robertson and the City of Vancouver are inviting residents and key stakeholders to an evening with André Picard to hear him speak about the overdose crisis and the links between physical health and the health of society.

Andre Picard is one of Canada's top health and public policy observers and commentators. He reports for health for the Globe and Mail, is releasing a book in Vancouver on May 25, Matters of Life and Death, and has spoken about the illicit drug crisis in Vancouver.

Attend the event