Toxic drugs: More access to safer supply needed to prevent deaths, Dr. Henry says |

More needs to be done to address the toxic drug crisis, according to B.C.’s provincial health officer, and she has listed some recommendations for the province.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a report that B.C. needs to expand on its non-prescribed alternatives to the toxic, unregulated drug supply to save more lives.

She said more access is needed for safer supply.

“More than 14,000 people have died of drug poisoning in B.C. since the public-health emergency was declared almost a decade ago,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said

“For some, a safer alternative to unregulated drugs could have been the right support. We owe it to those affected, to those lost, and those who love and miss them to explore what might be possible to help save lives and reduce harms from unregulated drugs.”

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Henry has issued a report to government with three recommendations:

  1. The province should be exploring the possibility of expanding its safer supply program
  2. People and organizations with lived experience of substance abuse must work in conjunction with the government in the planning, design and implementation of safer supply and alternative drug programs and policies.
  3. The government needs to work with Indigenous governing bodies and organizations to uphold the inherent rights and title of First Nations in B.C.

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Enabling more access to non-prescribed alternatives is not the only measure that needs to be taken, according to Henry.

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“It is among a suite of measures, I believe, we need to help people on their road to recovery,” Henry said.

“We can work to put in place a safeguard and an alternative option to help separate people from this toxic, unregulated drug supply, and I envision a future in which people who use drugs are not at the mercy of an unregulated supply and system that puts their lives at significant risk.

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“This requires an urgent shift toward enabling sufficient access to alternatives to meaningfully reduce drug poisonings and deaths.”

More than 2,500 people in B.C. died from toxic drug overdoses last year, largely driven by fentanyl.

The British Columbia Coroners Service said in the eight years since the public health emergency was declared, 14,582 people in the province have died from toxic drugs, including 763 in the first four months of this year.

The coroner says fentanyl continues to be the primary driver of overdoses this year and was detected in 82 per cent of toxicological tests.

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