Vancouver, along with the rest of North America, is currently in the midst of an opioid crisis. A public health emergency was declared in 2016 and remains ongoing. Many drugs sold in BC are contaminated with very powerful opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil. These opioids show up in street drugs such as heroin, as well as in counterfeit pharmaceuticals such as codeine and oxycodone. Fentanyl and carfentanil are also found contaminating some stimulants, including cocaine and amphetamines. There are currently no reports that fentanyl is being found in cannabis.
When using illicit drugs, using a drug testing kit or testing service is a preventive measure which can reduce overdose risk. Vancouver features multiple supervised consumption sites, which all have drug testing services available. These sites also provide take-home drug testing kits. One other option is to test a sample of your drugs via mail through a service called Get Your Drugs Tested.
Naloxone is a medication which quickly reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids. Naloxone kits are available at most pharmacies on campus, as well as at UBC Student Health Services and the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office. Naloxone kits are dispensed anonymously and free of charge. Once you have naloxone, make sure you know how to administer it. Online training is available at naloxonetraining.com.
Some opioids in Vancouver have been found to be contaminated with benzodiazepines, or benzos. Naloxone does not work on a benzo overdose, or any overdose on non-opioid drugs. Make sure that you always call first responders when you suspect an overdose.
If someone appears to have overdosed or is reacting badly to drugs, call 911 without fear of repercussions, as you are protected under the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act.
Physical distancing measures due to COVID-19 have led to a spike in overdose deaths, as more people opt to use drugs alone. It is very dangerous to use illicit drugs alone. When doing drugs in the company of others, remember to stay two metres apart. If this is not an option, call someone to supervise your drug use and stay on the line as you use. Do not handle other people’s drugs or drug-use supplies, and prepare only your own drugs. To avoid infection, sanitize your drug packaging with alcohol-based cleaner. Do not put drug bags or wraps in your mouth, vagina or anus. COVID-19 infection will worsen breathing impacts of opioids, benzos and alcohol, and can increase your risk of becoming seriously ill or dying.