TORONTO - An aging construction worker arrived quietly in the
building's basement, took his seat alongside three other men and
struck his lighter below a cooker of synthetic heroin.
A woman, trained to intervene in case of an overdose, placed a mask
over her face as his drug cooked and diluted beneath a jumping flame.
He injected himself, grew still and then told of the loss of his wife
who died alone in her room upstairs - an overdose that came just a few
months before this social service nonprofit opened its doors for
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It's all about harm reduction and improving community health outcomes
No doubt some Hamiltonians are chuckling to hear city council is
considering banning sugary drinks from city buildings to protect
With good reason.
The proposed ban by the public health department lands at the same
time the city is moving ahead with opening its first safe injection
site for drug addicts.
It's more than a little ironic that the city may be cracking down on
sugar while enabling the use of illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine.
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"You can't help dead people - that's the point of injection
There you go again, being a "bleeding heart." A recent letter writer
is correct. Injection sites are encouraging and abetting druggies in
their bad habits. There is no point to safe-injection sites.
And if they die, as they surely will if they don't kick their habit,
why should I give a hoot?
They chose to live on the edge as they do. Suffer the consequences!
They know better, and yet refuse to accept the inevitable. Stop or
And you should stop trying to be the social conscience of your
(Look, we're not fond of illegal drug use. But caring about what
happens to our fellow citizens - especially the weakest - is important
in a civilized society.)
Doug Ford says he is "dead against" supervised injection sites and
believes the focus should be on drug rehabilitation instead.
And if elected premier of Ontario in June, the Progressive
Conservative Leader says he will do everything he can to fight the
opioid crisis and get people who are struggling with addiction the
help they need.
"If your son, daughter, loved one ever had an addiction, would you
want them to go in a little area and do more drugs? I am dead against
that," Mr. Ford said Friday. "We have to help these people. We can't
just keep feeding them and feeding them."
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"By the time I was 17, 18," Nelson Abbott said, "I graduated to
He tried to stop many times, both by going cold-turkey and tapering
off the drugs, but he hated the withdrawal pains and he wasn't really
ready to quit. Therapy didn't work out, either. But then his best
friend overdosed and died. When Abbott's parents checked him into the
Caron Treatment Center in Berks County, he didn't fight.
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At the height of a heroin epidemic in Vancouver, British Columbia,
Inspector Bill Spearn -- then a rookie cop -- was assigned to a beat
in the heart of the crisis.
It was 1996, and though he had been responding to overdose after
overdose in Downtown Eastside, one of Canada's poorest postal codes,
Spearn wanted no part of the harm-reduction measures the city was
considering to save the lives of people in addiction.
A safe injection site, where drugs could be used under medical
supervision, was out of the question: "I thought it would be a big
magnet," he told a crowd at Temple University Medical School on Monday
night. "I thought it would empower people to use drugs." A few years
later, with the debate still raging, he left the neighborhood for
another position in the police department.
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In Kensington, this much is clear: No other neighborhood in
Philadelphia has seen more overdose deaths, or more visible suffering
amid a city opioid epidemic that claimed an estimated 1,200 lives in
2017. Along with neighboring Fairhill, it occupies less than 2 percent
of Philadelphia's land area, but 18 percent of all city overdoses
occurred in that small space, according to an Inquirer analysis of
On Tuesday night, when city health officials arrive in the neighborhood
for a community meeting on the epidemic, they'll come armed with dire
statistics and information on the city's 18-point plan to fight the
crisis. But they won't have an answer to the question that's roiled the
neighborhood since the plan was announced in January: Will Kensington
host the first safe-injection site in the city, and possibly the
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Midway through a community meeting in Northeast Philadelphia on the
opioid crisis Monday, a man stood up at the back of the room and yelled
out a question to city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley: "Doctor, where
do you live? Can we put a safe injection site next door to you?"
The crowd of 150 in the Fox Chase community center applauded and burst
into shouts in a display that vividly showed the tough sales job the
city is facing as it tries to fulfill a promise to allow a place where
people in addiction can use drugs under medical supervision. As heroin
has been adulterated with the deadlier opioid fentanyl, often without
the user's knowledge, the overdose death rate has soared. Quick
administration of a reversal medicine can save lives.
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Jason Kenney stated recently that the best way to combat drug addition
in general, and the opioid crisis in particular, is by controlling
supply. This demonstrates that he is little more than a cynical,
career politician. He will say whatever he thinks will resonate with
his base in the hope of becoming the next premier.
Mr. Kenney has routinely prostrated himself at the alter of the free
market, and is one who regards state intervention in the economy as
devil's work. He knows that where there is a demand, entrepreneurs
will invest capital with the aim of meeting that demand. In light of
well-established and widely accepted market theory, Mr. Kenney should
know - as I suspect he does - that the best way to address crises such
as the one we are witnessing is to also address the demand side of the
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The sheer volume of human suffering has been increasing exponentially
in recent months as a new and deadly wave of opioids scythes through
local drug users and addicts, says Const. Ryan Darroch, a 15-year
veteran of the Lethbridge Police Service, and a beat cop with the
downtown policing unit.
"We have not yet confirmed carfentanil (behind the recent overdoses)
through our lab analysis," he emphasizes, "but we have seized
carfentanil in the city. A lot of the street people we talk to in the
downtown, and all over this city, refer to it as 'Car.' It almost
looks like that candy Nerds. They tell us they take that carfentanil
and mix it with a water solution in those little blue vials people may
see on the streets on the ground. They mix that solution in little
green mixing bowls, and it breaks down the opioid inside that and they
may then draw that solution into a needle and inject it into
themselves. Fentanyl or
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John Lavergne believes a safe injection site will help save
KITCHENER - John Lavergne lost eight friends last year. All of them
died of an opioid overdose.
Six of them were in Waterloo Region. Three of them hadn't used in
months and had a relapse. They couldn't tell their partners, friends
or families they were using again.
They used alone and now they are dead, Lavergne said.
The Kitchener man says a supervised injection site would have helped
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Two people using fentanyl at London's temporary overdose prevention
site on the weekend were resuscitated by a nurse after they overdosed,
Middlesex-London's medical officer of health says.
"These people were inexperienced, and fentanyl is a drug where it's
easy to miscalculate how much you are taking. If this had happened in
a back alley or stairwell somewhere, it could have easily resulted in
death," Dr. Chris Mackie said Sunday.
The drug users were resuscitated Saturday using oxygen, he
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Alberta's supervised consumption sites should be permitted to offer
drug testing to help users learn what dangers might be lurking in
their illicit narcotics, the province's opioid commission recommended
While questions persist about the effectiveness of fentanyl-sensing
strips and other testing devices, providing insight to users on what
they plan to inject or ingest will undoubtedly save lives, commission
"Anytime you can give people a bit more understanding than absolutely
none about what's in their drugs, I think that's a positive," Elaine
Hyshka, co-chair of the Minister's Opioid Emergency Response
Commission, told a news conference downtown.
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More supervised injection sites planned as opioid-overdose numbers
The construction trailer that houses the illegal, volunteer-run
overdose prevention site in Toronto's Moss Park is about to open for
another evening, as a dozen drug users, some clearly anxious for their
fix, cluster around its muddy entrance in the cold.
Activist and harm-reduction worker Zoe Dodd, named one of Toronto Life
magazine's most influential people last year, alongside Foreign
Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and R&B star the Weeknd, unloads an
extra box of anti-overdose naloxone kits from her beat-up sedan.
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City's fatality rate is now nearly double Ontario average, fuelling
Opioid-related deaths in Hamilton have soared more than 80 per cent in
From January to October, 75 Hamilton residents died from an opioid
overdose in 2017 compared to 41 during the same period the year before.
"Opioids are continuing to have a devastating impact on individuals,
families, and the community," Hamilton's medical officer of health Dr.
Elizabeth Richardson said in a statement Friday. "The sustained trend
of rising opioid related deaths, which are preventable, in Hamilton is
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The war on drugs has never been won by anyone, anywhere. But Jason
Kenny figures that it can be won here in Alberta by stricter law
enforcement and by limiting safe injection sites.
He is against safe injection sites, because in his conservative way of
thinking, they promote the use of drugs. Nothing could be farther from
the truth. Safe injection sites help save lives.
On the street, drug addicts can be exposed to bad batches of drugs or
they can be thrown in jail for possession of illegal drugs. I'm quite
sure addicts are not happy they have to resort to safe injection sites
to get their fix.
And by going to safe injection sites, they are not demonized for being
addicts and they can go to these places so that they can get off their
dependence on drugs for good.
Dennis Wanechko, Leduc
WATERLOO REGION - Waterloo Region plans to look further into pursuing
three supervised injection sites, following a study that found a need
and support in the community for the service to combat fatal opioid
Sites are proposed for the central cores of Kitchener and Galt, and a
third spot to be determined that could be a mobile unit.
"In Waterloo Region, we know that overdose is on the rise," said Grace
Bermingham, regional manager of information, planning and harm reduction.
Bermingham presented findings from the first phase of a feasibility
study on supervised injection sites to a regional committee on
Tuesday. The second phase involves identifying potential locations and
further consultations with people who live, work or go to school near
a proposed site.
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United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney said he would be opposed
to expanding Safe Consumption Sites across the province if elected
"Helping addicts inject poison into their bodies is not a solution to
the problem of addiction," he said bluntly while visiting Lethbridge
Disagreeing with local Lethbridge government, aid organizations and
law enforcement officers who have championed the site, Kenney went on
to state he did not feel safe consumption or injection sites work, as
evidenced by the spike in opioid overdose deaths in Vancouver despite
having a safe injection site in that city for over a decade.
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How do we get out of this box? It may be time to follow Portugal in
British Columbia has a $250,000-a-day drug habit that is spiralling
out of control - and it's not supported by the Downtown Eastside
Rather, it's the opioid substitution program.
The province now spends more than $90 million a year on "treatment"
and health services for participants of the drug-maintenance program -
that's more than it provides for legal aid.
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An emergency situation demands an emergency response.
When people are trapped in a burning house or wrecked car, the
priority should be getting them out alive first, and then worrying
about damaged property or blocked roadways.
This is how people in Waterloo Region need to understand the horrific
and rising number of opioid overdoses ravaging their community.
We are, collectively, facing an emergency. People are dying in
staggeringly high numbers. Others are suffering terribly.
For all their sakes but also for the welfare of this region, we must
offer help - even as we work out the details.
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