Pubdate: Wed, 06 Dec 2017
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Jake Sherman
Page: A3


The fentanyl epidemic is a social crisis, not a medical one according
to Dr. Mark Tyndall, who spoke last week at an event organized by
Nelson's Fentanyl Task Force.

Tyndall is a provincial expert on the opioid overdose crisis who
brings a background in the study of disease in controlled populations
to his work crafting policy for the provincial government at the B.C.
Centre for Disease Control.

Speaking to about 100 local residents at the Prestige Lakeside Resort
last Thursday, he argued that the opioid overdose epidemic has been
amplified by the way in which drug policy has been enforced across the

"For most people, they just need a house," said Tyndall.

"That's the best treatment. This is a social issue, not a medical one.
The war on drugs: it doesn't work."

According to Tyndall, in 2012, four per cent of overdose fatalities
across the province came back with fentanyl in their post-mortem
toxicology reports. That number, Tyndall says, has jumped to 84 per
cent in just five years.

He says it's related to the expense of living in downtown

But though most of the research being conducted on the opioid crisis
is being done by people like Tyndall in Vancouver, the problem is not
one that exists in isolation.

Ten people have died due to fentanyl-related overdoses in the Kootenay
Boundary region this year, a number that has risen from four deaths in
2016. And a conversation surrounding the possibility of using Nelson
as a test site for medical studies on the impact of the fentanyl
crisis in rural communities appears to have been started between
Tyndall and city councillor Michael Dailly.

"We're in the midst of a crisis the likes of which we've never seen
before," said Chief Paul Burkart, who added that Nelson as a
municipality has made a conscious decision to enforce provincial drug
policy and the opioid crisis tactfully, and brought about seven
representatives of the Nelson Police Department to hear Tyndall speak.

"We're in desperation mode right now, we have to change the way we

The way we think, Tyndall says, has driven the crisis.

He argued on Thursday that the media has turned drug users in social
deviants and contributed to what he says is a "moral panic" by
focusing on fentanyl and ignoring larger issues that are compounding
the crisis like mental health, addiction and poverty.

According to Tyndall, users don't care whether or not their drugs have
fentanyl in them - they expect they will.

Tyndall offered a number of policy suggestions on Thursday to try to
offer solutions to the crisis. These include providing access for
users to controlled pharmaceutical opiates, pain management therapy,
supervised consumption sites, addiction treatment, reforming drug
laws, and increasing access to supportive services and

"These are people who are heavily traumatized - we haven't dealt with
their trauma," said Tyndall.

"These are people who are living in poverty - we haven't dealt with
their poverty. They are homeless and unsupported and all of those
drivers have led us to where we are now."
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