What's the best way to stop people from overdosing? Give them free drugs– is one city's answer.
British Columbia is the first province in Canada to introduce a new public-health measure, and by "health measure" I mean giving away free drugs.
"Prescribed safe supply" is what they're calling it and it includes a range of prescribed opioids and stimulants and the policy will also increase the number of supervised consumption sites.
Announced on July 15th, medical professionals and drug users are already asking for more options and expanded access– because, well… of course they're asking for more.
Jean Swanson, a Vancouver city councillor, joined a couple of drug user advocacy groups– Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU)– to hand out free drugs right outside a police station on July 14.
The province is investing $22.6 million over the next three years to implement and expand this new policy and Dr. Shannon McDonald, Chief Medical Officer of the First Nations Health Authority, says some healthcare professionals "need to be a little more comfortable with taking on this task."
B.C. is in its sixth year of an overdose emergency with over 7,000 deaths, and with overdoses soaring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just in the first five months of this year, there have been more deaths than ever reported before during the start of a calendar year– 851 deaths by overdose between January and May 2021.
The province has been working on decriminalizing and de-stigmatizing drug use for the last few years.
And it shows…
The last time I was in Vancouver, in December 2020, I was horrified by the explicit drug use. In broad daylight, on a busy sidewalk, there would be people shooting up. I saw a couple shooting each other up, I saw a man's blood being drawn back into the syringe, I saw a woman smoking something that looked like crack and I believe I saw a man overdose in the street.
Vancouver is a great city but its progressive views and policies are turning it into a drug hub. The province is now coddling drug users even more by prescribing "safe" alternatives to help keep drug users away from toxic illicit drugs.
Is this really what is best for people? De-stigmatizing heroin use and offering free alternatives like fentanyl patches?
Call me old-fashioned but I do feel like there should be maybe just a little bit of stigma attached to the use of hard drugs and opioids.
How will these types of policies affect young people growing up in these cities? Are we teaching our kids drugs are okay? Drugs can be safe? If the government is providing drugs and a "safe" place to do them, why wouldn't they try some?
It's practically part of B.C. culture now.