A lot has changed since Ross Rebagliati's legendary performance at the
1998 Winter Olympics. After winning gold for Canada in the first-ever
Olympic snowboarding event, the Vancouver-born athlete was then
stripped of his medal when he tested positive for THC, the
psychoactive element in marijuana. An appeal resulted in the return of
Rebagliati's medal (marijuana wasn't on the banned-substance list at
the time), while people around the world wondered how someone even
stays upright while flying down a mountain on a thin wooden plank stoned.
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Grassroots harm-reduction initiative launched as those on the front
lines lament provincial government's boardroom approach
Health officials in New Brunswick are taking too long to address the
serious and growing opioid problem in the province's two largest
cities, say local harm-reduction activists who have launched a
grassroots initiative in the face of what they describe as government
It has been more than six months since the province's top doctor
formed an advisory group to come up with solutions to address the
issue, but the government's response so far has been lean compared
with that of other Atlantic provinces and the rest of the country.
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Despite the mounting toll of overdose-related deaths in Ontario,
Ottawa's mayor and certain city councillors are trying to close a
"pop-up" overdose prevention site in Raphael Brunet Park. The site,
staffed by concerned volunteers with Overdose Prevention Ottawa and
funded via community donations, provides life-saving harm reduction
services for people who use drugs. There have been more than 1,150
visits and no fatalities since it opened five weeks ago.
Various political "leaders" in Ottawa have criticized pop-up site
organizers and been quick to presume the illegality of the site. The
site operates without a federal ministerial exemption from the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which means that those using
illegal drugs at the site can still be charged for possession when
using a service that could mean the difference between life and death.
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Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN
is reported to have said, "Every 19 minutes somebody dies of a
prescription drug overdose. It doesn't happen with marijuana." In the
past Gupta was against legalising medical marijuana in the U.S. but
now he is in favour of it. He sees some benefit for certain types of
The use of medical marijuana (medical cannabis) as a medicine has not
been rigorously tested due to several restrictions. But there is some
evidence to suggest cannabis can reduce nausea and vomiting during
chemotherapy, improve appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and reduce
chronic pain and muscle spasm.
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The Global Commission on Drug Policy has issued recommendations on
tackling North America's opioid crisis, calling for the immediate
expansion of harm reduction services, the decriminalization and
regulation of currently illicit drugs and an initiative to allow
interested cities to de facto decriminalize as federal debates over
drug policy continue.
The position paper, to be released on Monday, comes in advance of the
final report of the White House opioid commission, led by New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie, due out in November.
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The principal initiative undertaken by the Trudeau government has been
the legalization of marijuana under tight rules still being elaborated.
I have had a good deal of exposure to the American policy of the
so-called War on Drugs, from my time dealing with many pushers and
users as students for secondary school matriculation when I was in
prison in the United States. I had long been a skeptic about the War
on Drugs, which has cost the United States over a trillion dollars and
caused the imprisonment of more than two million people (but very few
of the kingpins), all while illegal drug use has increased
appreciably. The price of drugs has not risen much; supply has not
been strained, despite increased use among a growing population.
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Portugal treats addiction as a disease, not a crime.
LISBON - On a broken-down set of steps, a 37-year-old fisherman named
Mario mixed heroin and cocaine and carefully prepared a hypodermic
needle. "It's hard to find a vein," he said, but he finally found one in
his forearm and injected himself with the brown liquid. Blood trickled
from his arm and pooled on the step, but he was oblivious.
"Are you O.K.?" Rita Lopes, a psychologist working for an outreach
program called Crescer, asked him. "You're not taking too much?" Lopes
monitors Portuguese heroin users like Mario, gently encourages them to
try to quit and gives them clean hypodermics to prevent the spread of AIDS.
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Many cases unreported due to naloxone distribution, says health
There's likely a large number of unreported opioid overdoses in North
That's because the antidote naloxone is being distributed by
pharmacies and front-line organizations to those struggling with
addiction, as well as their friends and family members, throughout the
Kathleen Jodouin, HIV education co-ordinator at the AIDS Committee of
North Bay and Area, says her organization has had a take-home naloxone
program in place for the past two years. And, she says, the drug,
which temporarily reverses the effects of heroin and other opioid
drugs, is frequently given out.
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PATERSON -- About a dozen men and women sat on hard plastic chairs
early Wednesday morning inside a conference room at the Well of Hope
Drop-In Center on Broadway, where a flat screen television broadcast
sports highlights on ESPN.
Some came for the free coffee. A sign said the limit was one cup per
hour. Others were there to use the showers and toilet facilities. A
57-year-old man who would only give his name as "Julius" was waiting
to see a nurse about a blister on his foot.
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Report puts Brantford at top in province for emergency room visits due
to opioid poisoning,
A report putting Brantford at the top of the provincial list for
emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses is a "wake-up call,"
says Ruth Gratton.
"I think this report validates all of the hard work that is being done
in the community and will serve as justification for ramping up those
efforts," Gratton, manager of infectious disease at the Brant County
Health Unit, said Friday.
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NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh's recent promise that, as prime
minister, he would move quickly to drop criminal penalties for
possession or purchase of small amounts of all drugs will no doubt
seem radical to many.
Broad-based decriminalization would be a stark reversal after decades
of increasingly punitive policies. And this would certainly add a
layer of complication to the already-complicated task of legalizing
marijuana, which Ottawa and the provinces are struggling to do by next
summer. The Trudeau government's current position on decriminalization
is understandable: Ottawa already has its hands full with pot.
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Harm reduction is one kind of treatment approach for helping people
with substance abuse disorders and it can be confusing for people not
familiar with it.
"Sometimes people think it's abstinence versus harm reduction but that
isn't true," said Laura Chapman, health promotion specialist with
Mental Health and Addiction Services.
"Harm reduction absolutely includes abstinence."
Chapman and many other clinical therapists, counsellors and other
professionals working directly with people suffering from substance
abuse disorders feel harm reduction is an important tool.
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A federal New Democratic leadership hopeful has pledged to make it
party policy to decriminalize petty drug possession if he is elected
leader, supporting calls by an increasing number of health officials
who say it would help lift the stigma around addiction.
Jagmeet Singh made his pledge on Sunday at an NDP leadership debate in
Vancouver, a city that had recorded nearly 250 suspected overdose
deaths by the end of August. Across British Columbia, 876 people died
of illicit-drug overdoses from January through July of this year.
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According to Dr. Michael O'Malley and Dr. Kiri Simms (via CBC),
marijuana-induced psychosis has increased in the last 10 years. I do
not dispute their claims.
THC in pot sold on the street contributes to the problem. In fact, as
with any illegal street-sold drug, the more potent the active
ingredient, the better for sales. Yet, it's highly unlikely that the
seller is concerned about the amount of THC in the pot he sells on the
street, except for repeat sales.
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An opioid crisis is bringing together friends and family members of
overdose victims who want to support others going through the same
Fort McMurray residents Mari-Lee Paluszak, 55, and Holly Meints, 51,
both lost sons to accidental overdoses last year. Both attended
Overdose Awareness Day at the Wood Buffalo Regional Library last
Thursday to help put a face to the drug overdose problem, and to
promote a support group for people suffering the same grief as their
own. Their new group, On A Dragonfly's Wings, is meant to provide
mutual support for grieving family members of overdose victims.
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Discarded needles in the spotlight as Edmonton tackles overdose
crisis, safe injection sites
Cardboard boxes filled with syringes fill every nook and cranny of the
Streetworks office at Boyle Street Community Services.
They're stacked on top of cabinets, in corners and underneath a table
in the centre of the brightly lit office. Unboxed sharps, wrapped in
plastic, are stored in bins along a counter where people who use drugs
can pick up clean supplies.
The boxes go "wherever we can stuff them," said Marliss Taylor,
program manager at Streetworks. Last year, the service distributed a
record two-and-a-quarter million syringes through its needle exchange
van and exchange sites throughout the city. The goal, Taylor said, is
to "flood the market" with clean needles, reducing the health impacts
of intravenous drug use.
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There are a lot of very smart people in North Bay. It would be
interesting to see if the bright lights here can find an opportunity
hiding in the weeds to solve the opioid crisis.
And I'm not referring to emergency funding injections or quick-fix
More than 700 health-care professionals urged the province this week
to declare an emergency so more funding can flow to Ontario's
Overdose prevention sites, they say, need a boost to stem the tide as
deaths are mounting beyond even the HIV pandemic decades ago.
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Awareness day: City police station flags lowered to remember those
lost to drugs, alcohol
Everyone has a role in battling the stigma that can be even more
damaging to addicts than drugs themselves, the medical officer of
health said as city police hosted an event to mark International
Overdose Awareness Day on Thursday.
Directing judgements and negative attitudes towards those suffering
from addiction only perpetuate fear and avoidance, and as a result,
poorer outcomes for them, said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra of Peterborough
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With too many drug overdoses and deaths, best way still to reduce risk
Marking an International Overdose Awareness Day, as was done in
Victoria with a ceremony and vigil in Centennial Square on Aug. 31,
might seem moot, as few are unaware of the devastation and sadness
caused in recent years by the use of drugs.
But this day not only brought light to the worst human health crisis
in B.C. since the AIDS epidemic, it memorialized those who have died
seeking an escape from the pain of life through ingesting drugs.
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Advocate sees a role for public health nurses in fighting opioid
crisis in rural communities
The opioid crisis in St. John's is far from over, and a community
advocate wants to see changes.
"We see people every day who are at risk," said Tree Walsh, the harm
reduction manager at the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP) for the AIDS
Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador. "We're trying to save lives,
and we're trying to prevent deaths, but as soon as the pharmaceutical
supply of opioids dries up, which is happening now
things are going
to get so much worse."
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