Thursday , January 27 2022

Opioids: As the city of Vancouver saves addicts


For several years, the Canadian city streets are a widespread epidemic.

It is opioids.

The North American country is the second largest in the world behind the United States, and the consumption of these substances is higher, according to an analysis by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in 2013 and 2015.

The province of British Columbia and its most important city, Vancouver, are often seen as the epicenter of this crisis in Canada.

More than 1,400 people in 2017 they died overdose of these substances in the province, often obtained on the black market.

And it is estimated that at least one person in Vancouver dies every day for reasons related to opioid abuse.

The list of these substances includes heroin, morphine, codeine and fentanyl.

The latter is 50 times stronger than heroin, it is much cheaper but equally dependent and fatal.

"I had three cases of overdose," says Melissa alley in the center of Vancouver, as she tries to keep tears.

"Perhaps the only thing that saved me was my desire to live."

A new strategy

However, the Vancouver authorities have recently begun to tackle this problem from a different perspective.

The city authorities have recognized that some of them will never overcome their dependence and that the situation should therefore be seen as public health problem not a crime issue.

This new strategy is based on two pillars.

The first is to distribute between medical staff, volunteers and even among drug addicts Narcan– antidote to opioid overdose.

Opioids affect the part of the brain that controls breathing.

The use of high doses of these substances can lead to a slowdown or even a break in breathing.

The following lack of oxygen for a long time it can have fatal consequences.

On the other hand, Narcan converts the effects of overdose in a few minutes and lasts between 30 and 90 minutes. The time it takes to get emergency services.

The "narcosal"

The second pillar of the new strategy is the opening of sites with room for drug addicts to inject substances in a controlled manner.

The first was the community living in the center of Vancouver.

At first it was a decision controversiala, but then it became a prototype of the public health system.

Users come here with the drugs they buy on the street.

Each has a chair with a chair.

They arrive, they sit down and inject the dose.

As Jamie, a former Canadian army officer who uses this space to inject fentanyl and methamphetamine crystal.

This young man fought in Afghanistan, but says he has never seen so many deaths on the streets of Vancouver.

He suffered eight cases of overdose, but it was saved because volunteers from this municipal center could deliver the antidote in time.

Something similar to what Providence Crosstown clinic specialists provide heroin clean medical gradeunder strict medical supervision.

The treatment costs around $ 19,000 per customer per year for local and national public money.

However, dr. Scott MacDonald, one of the leaders of Crosstown Province, if drug users were not properly treated, would be a cost to society much higher.

"Anyone who consumes opioids every day pays the court system and the police even for the transmission of infectious diseases," says MacDonald.

"All these costs can be reduced if people have effective treatment available."

The medical staff distributes the medicine to users with pre-measured syringes, and provides advice on venous care, HIV, hepatitis C and treatment options.

Patty and Joey are two of the 130 patients coming to this clinic inject heroin three times a day.

Before they had to sell everything they had to pay for their addiction.

Instead, they live in a new apartment and, although they are still addicted to drugs, they see them in front of them "bright".

"We are an example of this program," they smile.

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