HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Why Addicts Still Play Russian Roulette With Fentanyl
Pubdate: Tue, 11 Jul 2017
Source: Vancouver 24hours (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Vancouver 24 hrs.
Author: Bill Tieleman
Page: 2


"People doing drugs now are dope-sick and it's so painful, you'd
rather die." - Constance Barnes, Overdose Prevention Society

The day you read this column, four people in British Columbia will die
of a drug overdose, two-thirds due to the powerful opioid fentanyl.

That means 1,500 people will die in just one year. It's the equivalent
of four jumbo jets loaded with passengers crashing at Vancouver
International Airport in 12 months - unthinkable.

Yet many people ask: Why would anyone in their right mind play Russian
roulette with their life by taking cocaine, ecstasy or heroin that
could be laced with deadly fentanyl?

And that's exactly the problem, Constance Barnes of Vancouver's
Overdose Prevention Society said in an interview Sunday.

"When you've been on drugs for months or years, you're not thinking
clearly," says Barnes. "If you're dope-sick and hurting and someone
comes along with drugs and says there might be fentanyl in it -
they're still going to take it."

"You can't just stop - addicts have a thinking problem," said Barnes,
who has been in recovery from alcohol addiction herself for eight
years after the former Vancouver Park Board Commissioner had a
highly-publicized car crash while under the influence in 2009.

So Barnes can relate to the up to 700 people who daily use pop-up safe
drug consumption sites, where they can inject, smoke or ingest drugs
with medically trained volunteers watching to prevent overdoses.

"This is an absolute disease - as if you were diagnosed with cancer,"
she says. And it is a disease - it's very much feeling uncomfortable
in your own skin."

Barnes says many people using drugs have schizophrenia or other mental
illnesses or enormous psychological pain.

"There isn't anybody out there using drugs who wasn't abused, a victim
of incest, raped, uncomfortable for some reason," she said. "Heroin
will just numb it. You mask it."

Overdose Prevention Society founder Sarah Blyth is frustrated there
isn't more public demand for services.

"It's not hitting home the way it should because of the stigma," Blyth
said in an interview Sunday.

Barnes says too many people believe drug addiction is a personal
decision when "it's a disease, not a choice."

The decision that is costing lives isn't made by the drug addicted -
it's the choice of those who don't bother to care or help.
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