Pubdate: Sun, 27 Nov 2016
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Jim Taylor
Page: 7


Suppose 700 people died in a terrorist attack. Would you shrug it off
because it didn't happen near you? Suppose 700 people died from a
toxic chemical sprayed on farm vegetables. Would you still expect to
see those vegetables for sale at your local supermarket?

Not * likely!

So why do we blandly tolerate government foot-dragging on the 700 drug
overdose deaths that will happen in B.C. before the end of this year?

As of October, the province had 622 deaths. Two more months will push
the toll over 700.

And not one of those deaths resulted from drugs administered at a safe
injection site. Not one.

Don't assume that the overdose victims are homeless vagrants or
slum-dwellers. The majority have been young people with responsible
jobs, budding careers, and growing families.

They've been at a party, taken something they thought was safe. It

Or they've been using drugs for years, with no ill effects. And then
one day, it kills them.

They all have one thing in common, though - they got their drugs
through an illegal market.

There is no point, any longer, in denying the reality of recreational
drug use. It's here. Just the way cigarettes were, 50 years ago.
Almost anyone under 40 today has inhaled, ingested, or injected some
mood-altering drug, at least once.

Federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott assures us that the
government is considering legislative changes related to opioid drugs.

Health Canada promised to issue an update on an action plan by next

Not actually to do anything. Not even to have a plan. Just an update
on a plan.

"You move very, very slowly, even when you're trying to be helpful,"
B.C. medical health officer Perry Kendall told the media.

Meanwhile, dammit, people are dying.

Issuing the antidote naloxone to paramedics is a stop-gap - like
closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. It can reverse an
overdose; it won't prevent an overdose.

A partial solution would be more safe injection sites. Vancouver has
(or will soon have) three of these sites. No other B.C. city has even

An addict in Kelowna or Prince George will not travel to Vancouver
every day to receive safe drugs.

But to open a new safe injection site, says Kendall, health
authorities must meet more than two dozen conditions imposed by
Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

The failure of law-and-order policies is obvious south of the border,
where the explosion of recreational drugs has taken place entirely
during the Drug Enforcement Agency's jurisdiction.

Outlawing drugs hasn't worked in the U.S. It's not working in

Prohibition - 1920 to 1933 in the U.S., shorter periods in Canada -
applied the same punitive rationale to alcohol. It not only failed to
conquer alcohol consumption, it fostered new kinds of crime.

Driving drugs underground has had the same effect. The criminal market
has no quality controls. No inspectors. No labels guaranteeing the
chemical content.

Prohibition ended only when the government put the criminals out of

Granted, government liquor control didn't end alcohol abuse. But it
did ensure that the product was not adulterated with methanol,
kerosene or other dangerous fluids.

The prohibition pattern seems to me to be playing out with
recreational drugs. Heroin, cocaine, and apparently even marijuana
(according to B.C. premier Christy Clark) are now being spiked with
fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine.

Or with fentanyl's even more toxic cousin, carfentanyl.

And why not? Heroin, cocaine, and morphine are expensive natural
products. They require elaborate refining. They have to be smuggled
across international borders. A long supply chain jacks up the price.

But the synthetic products are cheap.

If the pill processors can replace, say, half of an expensive product
with a microgram of a cheaper product, plus some filler, of course
they'll do it.

The obvious solution is to put the drug marketers out of business. As
with liquor, the government needs to control manufacture and

Addiction is not, in itself, an evil. Many business leaders enjoy
daily doses of alcohol. Your surgeon may have a heroin addiction; your
accountant may rely on cocaine to keep going; your child's teacher may
smoke pot to unwind. That doesn't stop them from doing their job.

The problem is not the addiction. It's the supply. Unreliable supplies
force users to deal with criminals. Undependable quality may kill them.

Safe injection sites are one solution. But they can bail out only a
small proportion of recreational drug users. What's needed is to put
the underground market out of business.
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