Nine dead of fen­tanyl opi­oid abuse in one day in Van­cou­ver Canada bat­tling to con­tain over­dose cri­sis

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

OT­TAWA: Nine peo­ple died from fen­tanyl opi­oid over­doses in the Cana­dian city of Van­cou­ver in just the past 24 hours, Mayor Gre­gor Robert­son said Fri­day. The spike in deaths comes as Canada-like its neigh­bor the United States has been strug­gling to con­tain an over­dose cri­sis that claimed 2,000 lives last year, with even more ex­pected in 2016.

Flanked by the city’s po­lice chief and other emer­gency of­fi­cials, Robert­son lauded ex­ist­ing harm re­duc­tion ser­vices such as drug con­sump­tion rooms in the city, but said more treat­ment op­tions are ur­gently needed. “It’s des­per­ate times in Van­cou­ver and it’s hard to see any sil­ver lin­ing right now when we haven’t hit rock bot­tom,” he said, warn­ing of more over­doses to come. “Can you imag­ine nine peo­ple dy­ing from another cause in one day in our city?” Po­lice Chief Adam Palmer said, call­ing for more help for ad­dicts. The govern­ment has poured tens of mil­lions of dol­lars into bol­ster­ing pub­lic health emer­gency re­sponses, with lit­tle ef­fect. Across the border, the United States has also seen a sud­den spike in fen­tanyl re­lated deaths, in­clud­ing the ap­par­ent over­dose of the pop star Prince in April.

Van­cou­ver has seen an av­er­age of 15 over­doses a month and po­lice are cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing 160 fa­tal­i­ties, Palmer said. The city’s coroner said morgues have reached ca­pac­ity.

Most of the deaths oc­curred in the gritty Down­town East­side neigh­bor­hood, where an open drug mar­ket and ex­treme poverty per­sist de­spite decades of in­ter­ven­tions. As the cri­sis snow­balled, the city coun­cil ap­proved a 0.5 per­cent prop­erty tax hike this week to help stem the num­ber of over­doses.

The funds are to go to sup­port front­line emer­gency work­ers, shel­ters and out­reach cen­ters. Mean­while, the fed­eral govern­ment this week re­moved hur­dles to open­ing new drug con­sump­tion rooms-as de­mand sky rock­eted and ex­panded its fight against nar­cotics traf­fick­ing at the border. Its re­vamp of drug laws is ex­pected to pave the way for at least nine new drug con­sump­tion sites-known in Canada as “su­per­vised in­jec­tion sites”-across the na­tion, and more cus­toms searches for fen­tanyl.

The first North Amer­i­can con­sump­tion rooms were es­tab­lished at a clinic in Van­cou­ver’s Down­town East­side in 2003 un­der a spe­cial ex­emp­tion from fed­eral drug pos­ses­sion and traf­fick­ing laws.

It re­mains the only fa­cil­ity on the con­ti­nent where ad­dicts can re­ceive med­i­cal su­per­vi­sion as they in­ject hero­ine il­le­gally bought on the street. Ot­tawa also recently re­stricted six chem­i­cals used to make fen­tanyl and part­nered with China to stem its flow into the coun­try from abroad.

Highly po­tent and ad­dic­tive, the anal­gesic fen­tanyl is es­ti­mated to be up to 100 times stronger than mor­phine. The re­lated drug car­fen­tanil is 100 times more pow­er­ful than fen­tanyl. Two mil­ligrams of pure fen­tanyl-the size of about four grains of salt-is enough to kill an av­er­age-size adult. —AFP

NEW YORK: (FILES) This file photo taken on Septem­ber 22, 2016 shows bags of heroin, some laced with fen­tanyl, dis­played be­fore a press con­fer­ence at the of­fice of the New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral, in New York. Nine peo­ple died of fen­tanyl opi­oid abuse in the Cana­dian city of Van­cou­ver in just the past 24 hours, Mayor Gre­gor Robert­son said. —AFP

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