Hit Hard by Opioid Crisis, Canadian Province Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Hard Drugs | Health
TUESDAY, Jan. 31, 2023 (HealthDay News) — To combat a pressing opioid overdose crisis, a Canadian province took an unusual step on Tuesday.
British Columbia decriminalized small amounts of several hard drugs.
That includes up to 2.5 grams of cocaine, heroin and fentanyl, the province’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction said in a statement.
In the future, the police will not confiscate the drugs. Instead, adults found with this crowd receive information about addiction treatment programs.
“We know that criminalization drives people to consume alone. With the increasingly toxic supply of drugs, use alone can be deadly,” said Jennifer Whiteside, British Columbia Minister for Mental Health and Addiction, in the statement.
“Decriminalizing people who use drugs reduces the fear and shame associated with drug use and makes them feel safer when reaching out for life-saving supplies,” she continues to add at an unprecedented pace.”
The exception is hard drug sellers and dealers, who continue to be prosecuted.
“The situation has never been so urgent,” Drug and Drug Administration Secretary Carolyn Bennett said during a media briefing just before the start of the three-year pilot. CBS News reported.
“The impact of this public health crisis has devastated communities across British Columbia and across Canada,” Bennett said.
The hope is to remove the stigma of drug use and encourage people to seek help for the health problem of addiction.
Stigma and shame “drive people to hide their addiction,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Chief Public Health Officer, during the briefing. “That means a lot of people are dying alone.”
After Kathryn Botchford’s husband Jason died of a drug overdose in 2019, she kept the cause of death a secret until realizing “I was unknowingly creating shame.”
Botchford said she didn’t know her husband was using drugs. CBS News reported.
“When I found out how he died, I thought it must be a mistake. Jason doesn’t do drugs. We have three young children and he knows the risks,” she said. “But I was wrong. He died alone with an illegal substance.”
More than 10,000 people have overdosed since a public health emergency for opioids was declared in the province of 5 million people in 2016. 30,000 deaths have been recorded across Canada, according to reports CBS News.
Public health officials first announced the new program last May. You can later expand the program to other provinces.
Canada has spent more than $800 million, equivalent to $600 million, to try to end the crisis. These include funds being spent on addiction treatments, shipments of the overdose antidote naloxone and the opening of 39 supervised drug consumption sites across Canada. CBS News reported.
It has had a positive impact, with more than 42,000 overdoses being reversed at safe injection sites, Bennett said. More than 209,000 Canadians were referred to health and social services.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the opioid overdose epidemic.
SOURCE: CBS News