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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After the death of her father, a prominent hotel owner in Seattle,
Ella Henderson started taking morphine to ease her grief. She was 33
years old, educated and intelligent, and she frequented the upper
reaches of Seattle society. But her "thirst for morphine" soon
"dragged her down to the verge of debauchery," according to a
newspaper article in 1877 titled "A Beautiful Opium Eater." After
years of addiction, she died of an overdose.
In researching opium addiction in late-19th-century America, I've come
across countless stories like Henderson's. What is striking is how,
aside from some Victorian-era moralizing, they feel so familiar to a
21st-century reader: Henderson developed an addiction at a vulnerable
point in her life, found doctors who enabled it and then
self-destructed. She was just one of thousands of Americans who lost
their lives to addiction between the 1870s and the 1920s.
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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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Northwest Ohio Syringe Services has begun distributing fentanyl test
strips to active users of opioids and other drugs. The exchange, a
program through the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, is part of
a larger strategy of harm reduction to keep people with addiction
issues healthy while using, and provide them with resources and help
when they want to seek treatment.
Fentanyl has become the scourge of anyone trying to fight Ohio's
opioid epidemic: deadly in small quantities and appearing in an
increasing number of fatal overdoses.
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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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VANCOUVER - Vancouver city councillors agreed the city's approach to
harm reduction may appears extreme to those who haven't experienced
the overdose crisis' impacts first-hand.
But Coun. Hector Bremner told StarMetro he thinks those skeptical of
harm reduction simply haven't had an opportunity to learn how it
"The average person going about their day to day life, worrying about
their family and putting food on their table is not necessarily deeply
involved in these issues," Bremner said. "And so they go with what
they feel, or what they know, or what's the societal norm.
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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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Studies show controlled drug use can reduce consumption of street
As the opioid crisis rages on across North America, a number of recent
studies are pointing to cannabis and prescription heroin as viable
options in curbing the consumption of lethal street opiates, reducing
long-term medical and policing costs and extending the lives of users.
An analysis of opioid prescriptions in the U.S.published on Monday by
the American Medical Association showed a significant decrease in
opioid prescriptions in states that have adopted some sort of cannabis
legislation. Using data from 2010 to 2015, the analysis counted 3.7
million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed in states that allow
weed dispensaries, while states that allow only home cultivation saw a
decrease of 1.8 million daily prescribed doses.
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This April, the federal Liberals will consider a policy resolution
that could result in the decriminalization of low-level drug
possession across Canada - something that people who use drugs,
medical professionals, and increasingly, members of government have
been pushing for.
For Conservatives and other prohibitionists, decriminalization has
been fiercely contested on the presumption that it makes a radical
'Wild West' of the drug market. They argue that a tough-on-crime
agenda is the only answer to an opioid crisis that has killed
thousands - but fail to acknowledge that under absolute prohibition we
relinquish control over every echelon of the drug chain to a black
market that no amount of law enforcement will get under control.
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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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News release that called for study to make personal use legal called
Things started off on a pretty collegial tone Tuesday morning in
Vancouver city council.
Much of the morning session was concerned with development plans for
an 8.4-hectare site in south Vancouver. Councillors echoed their
support for the project, and one commented on proceedings going "so
smoothly." The mayor agreed, saying it was nice to conduct the meeting
"without the kind of friction that can sometimes occur."
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In 2018 we find ourselves battling an opioid crisis that has been
years in the making. Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system
to relieve pain and were originally derived from opium but now also
include synthetic preparations.
In the mid-1990s, their use by physicians was heavily promoted by the
pharmaceutical industry, leading to greater prescribing for both acute
and chronic pain. Patients using opioids can develop a dependency or
There are two sources of opioids: those that are produced by the
pharmaceutical industry and those that are illicitly produced.
Recently, the illicit supply has become so contaminated with fentanyl
(a very powerful opioid) or fentanyl-like substances that many people
are at risk of an unintended acute and potentially fatal poisoning.
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Last week there were two rallies organized to address the opioid
crisis - one in the city and the other on the Blood Reserve. On Monday
night, I attended the Community in Crisis March that started at City
Hall and ended with a candlelight vigil at Galt Gardens. Several very
touching speeches were given by citizens who have been impacted by the
opioid crisis and are determined to fight back.
Our Mayor and local MLA Maria Fitzpatrick also provided remarks
echoing the sentiment that this crisis sees no boundaries - it does
not discriminate. They also reaffirmed we must continue with harm
reduction efforts and band together as communities.
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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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The life-saving drug may actually increase opioid abuse. Here's
My friendly local pharmacy has started selling naloxone kits to the
general public. They think everyone should have one. The idea is that
you never know when you're going to have someone overdose in your home.
As the opioid crisis spreads like a curse across North America,
naloxone - a lifesaving drug that neutralizes the effects of an opioid
overdose - is not confined to first responders anymore. Schools in
Toronto are stocking up in it. Librarians across the United States
have been trained to administer it to overdosing visitors. Everywhere,
the message is: make sure you have some on hand, just in case.
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