Pubdate: Fri, 09 Dec 2016
Source: Langley Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Langley Times
Series: Dying to get high
Author: Monique Tamminga


Drug interventionist Andy Bhatti, a former heroin user himself, said
addicts need more access to immediate treatment and to methadone if
lives are going to be saved.

"There is a two-to three-month wait for a publicly-funded treatment
beds and private treatment can cost up to $7,500 a month," said Bhatti.

He's sending some of his clients to Thailand to a high-end treatment
centre that costs less than half that amount. He claims there is a
full-time psychologist there as well as other therapies.

Access to methadone

As of July 1, Bhatti said, the government began allowing family
doctors to prescribe methadone and suboxone. But no GP is doing that
in Langley, Bhatti believes. He said people wanting help should be
able to go into a walk-in clinic and get a prescription for methadone.

But even if that happens, the wait time to get methadone is about two
weeks in Langley.

"By the time two weeks rolls around they have given up and gone back
into their addiction," he said. "I am actually driving them down to
Vancouver and that way they can get methadone that day," he said.

"Sometimes this harm reduction approach is actually really good. It's
a way of keeping the addict alive until he or she is ready to accept
help for their addiction," Bhatti points out.

While there are around 12 pharmacies in downtown Langley that offer
methadone, many are at capacity for the number of prescriptions they
can fill, he said.

He believes many people came from different parts of Metro Vancouver
to get methadone here in Langley and then stayed.

Safe injection

Another suggestion to prevent further deaths is to put safe injection
sites in cities where the opiate crisis is the highest.

"Number one place would be Surrey," he said. Surrey is currently
deciding where to put a safe injection site. But Langley and
Abbotsford are also places with high levels of homelessness and addiction.

When someone wants to come off drugs, whether it be oxycontin, heroin
or cocaine -methadone or suboxone are working methods, in his experience.

"I'd say it takes about seven or so months on methadone when the
addict can come off it safely and start on a clean path," he said.

But staying on methadone too long can have serious side effects,
including teeth and bone erosion, he said.

Bhatti doesn't think offering free heroin is the answer

"It will just enable the addict to continue and plus the government
could never supply enough. It would be very costly," he said. At the
height of Bhatti's addiction, he was using $1,000 worth of heroin a

Huge profits being made

"Drug dealers aren't trying to kill their customers," explains

"As a person that has been convicted of selling cocaine and heroin - I
can tell you we don't try to kill people that we are selling drugs
to," he said.

"In the drug dealing industry, buffing your drugs, also called cutting
your drugs, is a way of making your drugs into more drugs - more drugs
equals more money."

And drug dealers are making buckets of money right now, he

"A fake oxy pill sells for $40. On average, it's easy to make 200,000
pills. There are huge profits being made."

But the problem with mixing all these hard drugs with fentanyl,
carfentanil or W18 is two-fold - it's killing people and if it's not,
it is making addiction that much stronger, Bhatti said.

"I have clients using Xanax that they didn't know had fentanyl in it
and now they are really addicted to fentanyl," he said.

University students are using Adderall (the study drug) which is
addictive in itself, but now they are getting the drug mixed with fentanyl.

"We used to cut a powdered novocain or sugar to mix cocaine with. When
dealing with heroin we used to use caffeine pills or powdered
methadone so the addicts that smoked heroin didn't know we buffed it."

Cheaper and longer lasting

But drug dealers aren't chemists.

Mixing drugs is like making a batch of cookies, Bhatti

"When you make chocolate chip cookies, all cookies don't have the same
amount of chocolate chips in them. Some cookies have more in them than

"So when a drug dealer, is mixing heroin and oxycontin pills together,
some drugs will have more fentanyl in them than others. That's how
people start to overdose and accidentally die."

Bhatti drug tests clients who are taking part in detox in day
programs. When they are taking opiates, the test results show fentanyl.

Bhatti said he has never been busier, with so many families frantic
they may lose a loved one to an overdose. Just last week, six people
who Bhatti knew had relapsed out of recovery, overdosed and died.

Bhatti is based out of Langley and offers emergency interventions for
loved ones or families in crisis. For more information or free
consultation go to or call 604-309-1573.
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