Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Desperate Times in Vancouver

"At least six persons died after using drugs in the Downtown Eastside in a span of only eight hours [while five more died in the rest of the province]."
British Columbia Coroner's Service warning

"It's going to take dramatic and immediate action from the B.C. government to invest in treatment options."
"It's desperate times in Vancouver and it's hard to see any silver lining. We don't seem to have hit rock bottom."
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson

"Nine days [waiting list for treatment]. You lose the window to help within hours. Nine days is an eternity."
"When somebody is ready, they are ready to get off drugs. We need to help them right away because they're at risk of dying if we do not help them."
Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer
Fentanyl crisis
Vancouver officials held a news conference Friday to address the growing crisis of drug overdose deaths. (CBC)

It's all hands on board in Vancouver's battle with drug addicts acquiring illegal drugs cut with unknown amounts of deadly fentanyl and far deadlier carfentanil, manufactured in drug laboratories in China for the most part, and ordered through Chinese websites at prices hugely attractive to drug dealers in the West to use as filler with heroin or other opiates popular with people addicted to these deadly, recreational drugs.

Police, firefighters and  health officials in Vancouver, the seat of the illicit drug epidemic that has spread over the rest of Canada, where municipalities have had to deal with the crisis of people overdosing and gambling with their lives to the extent that an increasing number of such deaths are causing consternation throughout the country. Naxalone, used as an antidote has been largely successful in forestalling deaths, if it's administered in a timely manner.

front line 14
Paramedics attend to an overdose patient after three doses of Narcan fail to revive him. (CBC)

On Thursday, in the span of an eight-hour period, eleven people died from the vicious effect of fentanyl-laced opioids. These are drugs so powerful that a few grains present with other drugs is sufficient to cause overdose and death. These are drugs so powerful that they are used by veterinarians dealing with elephants, to subdue the great beasts for surgical procedures. These are drugs so threatening to the addicted population that they play Russian roulette for a fix.

In despair Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver notes that naxalone applied to reverse the overdose effect of fentanyl just isn't cutting it. Since those treated and defeating death in that one sitting, simply take themselves off to the streets once again to access drugs for another go at it. What these hard-core addicts need, he says, is treatment effective enough to help them turn their lives back in the direction of normalcy.

These are people too far departed into the neverland of drug addiction to be responsible for themselves. And so, society has been pushed to pick up the pieces in an effort to restore them to a point of self-reliance, once they have reached a psychological equilibrium that will balance them toward avoidance of illicit drugs, if that can be achieved. In the interim, pop-up clinics helping addicts with their injections, with help standing by to react, have attempted to fill the gap.

The federal government recently announced new measures permitting cities across the nation to open supervised injection sites. Even so, Gregor Robertson notes, greater efforts are required to deal with the "horrific impact" of Vancouver's overdose deaths. About 1,300 people daily committing themselves to using illicit opioids, "playing roulette" with fentanyl, cut into heroin.

An unprotected, used needle sits on a metal grate at Carrall and Hastings streets, around the corner from the overdose treatment facility set up at 58 West Hastings St. recently.
An unprotected, used needle sits on a metal grate at Carrall and Hastings streets, around the corner from the overdose treatment facility set up at 58 West Hastings St. recently. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The City of Vancouver has approved a tax hike of .05 percent devoted to aiding firefighters who respond to this crisis. Drug users are in need of housing and mental heath services to deal with isolation caused by their cycle of addiction dependency. According to the Vancouver Coroners Service, from January of 2015 to the end of October, 622 people died of overdose deaths caused by illicit drugs in the province, many related to fentanyl.

A police officer approached by three drug addicts asking for help to access treatment for drug abuse, revealed some of the difficulties involved. The enquiring officer, acceding to the request for help and direction found it more complex to access treatment than he might ever had imagined. Informed that space is tight and there would not be an opportunity for the three to gain assistance until nine days later, they had nowhere to turn to on the spur of the moment.

Now, the city is calling on the provincial government to recognize the dire need to provide treatment on demand for drug users, reflecting the overdose death toll, which is reaching toward staggering proportions.

Overdose epidemic reaches disturbing milestone

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