Victoria councillors push for access to safe drugs

A motion coming to council would ask the province for easier access to opioid alternatives

People addicted to opioids may soon have an alternative option to street drugs. (File photo)

Victoria City councillors are advocating for better access to drugs for those living with an opioid addiction.

In a motion coming to council on Thursday, Coun. Sarah Potts, Coun. Jeremy Loveday, Coun. Marianne Alto and Coun. Ben Isitt will ask the city to work with the province and Island Health to supply people with more access to opioid alternatives.

“A safer drug supply means people are able to obtain drugs in quantities that they want at a toxicity that is known,” said Potts. “This predictability will save lives while putting individuals in contact with social services and health care and out of contact with those involved in the illicit drug trade.”

READ MORE: Youngest opioid overdose victim in B.C. last year was 10 years old

There are currently three clinics in Victoria which offer opioid replacements like methadone and suboxone, which are designed to minimize withdrawal symptoms for people trying to wean off of an opioid addiction.

What the city is pushing for, and what the province is launching in various locations, is easier access to hydromorphone –also known as its brand name Dilaudid– to act as alternative opioid option for those who are not ready to seek treatment yet.

“Hydromorphone is an opioid,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, a provincial health officer with the Ministry of Health and Addictions. “It’s a regulated prescription of pharmaceutical grade. We’ve been working on offering people who are addicted to opioids a safer supply… It’s a way to keep people alive.”

READ MORE: B.C. pharmacists to undergo specialized opioid training

Hydromorphone comes in both pill and injectable form, with effects that can last between six and eight hours. Dr. Henry argued that by removing the struggle to access drugs, there will be less turmoil in people’s lives and a drastically reduced chance of overdose or death. This in turn would allow people with addictions the time to stabilize themselves to the point that they are ready to seek treatment.

Pilot projects in Vancouver, including the Insite Supervised Injection Site and the Providence Crosstown Clinic have been offering opioid replacements and seen positive results, and last week Providence launched its own hydromorphone pilot.

“People who used Insite were 40 per cent more likely to go into recovery, and petty crime rates around the facilities went down dramatically,” said Dr. Henry. “This is a harm reduction approach; we’re giving people a known quantity because now the issue is the street drugs are so contaminated, and you never know what you’re going to get.”

READ MORE: Victoria woman shares her painful experience with opioid addiction

Hydromorphone is pharmaceutic ally produced, inexpensive– totalling 40-50 cents per pill– and readily available.

The next challenge, Dr. Henry said, is to make access to hydromorphone even more low barrier than before.

ALSO READ: B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

At this point, people will still need to go to clinics and go through an intake process, where more ideally public health nurses will be able to go onto the streets and do assessments to make people more aware of the option.

Dr. Henry noted that the program is not intended to promote the use of addictive drugs.

“These are people who are already addicted, and not everyone is at the place where they are able to think of recovery.”

If the motion is passed, it will be presented to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities and the Union of B.C. Municipalities before going reaching the province for further action.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Researchers head out from Sidney to explore Canada’s largest underwater volcano

The Explorer Seamount is as large as Greater Vancouver and full of previously undiscovered species

Victoria businesses remain plastic-bag free, despite court ruling

Business association says no one has inquired into re-establishing the use of plastic bags

RCMP confirm foul play in death of 60-year-old Metchosin man

Police believe crime an isolated incident

Saanich Mayor says ‘no costs asked of municipality’ for proposed film studio

Mayor Fred Haynes made that comment after questions from watchdog group

RCMP identify Sidney bank robbery suspect, believe he is still on Vancouver Island

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Dashcam video captures moment Victoria cyclist struck

Police seeking cyclist captured in video

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

B.C. couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran of Abbotsford spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Canadian is detained in China on drug allegations: Chinese government

Detention of a Canadian in China comes as part a diplomatic dispute triggered by arrest of Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou

Most Read