cocaine vancouver

This is why a drug advocacy group in Canada just gave out free doses of cocaine

Vancouver is among the Canadian cities, which has struggled the hardest with the opioid crisis, and it has worsened substantially amid the pandemic due to things like social isolation, lockdown measures, a medical focus on COVID-19 and border restrictions that have cut off narcotic supplies.

Drug-related deaths in the province of B.C. and Canada at large have risen substantially since lockdown measures were implemented, with more than 500 fatal overdoses across the province thus far in 2020 and 170 in May alone — a record high for one month, and a shocking 93 per cent higher than the same period last year.

Things got so bad so quickly that the city started providing residents with a safe, regulated drug supply back in March — something that some politicians and experts believe should be made permanent — to prevent users from ingesting substances cut with things like fentanyl. 

Harm reduction activists, who are concerned about tainted street supply due to the shame and criminalization of drug use, have escalated their efforts and calls for change as a result. Their most recent push to bring attention to the crisis involved actually taking to the streets of Vancouver to hand out free, clean illicit substances.

On Tuesday, members of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) rallied through the city's Downtown Eastside offering tested cocaine and opium to residents, starting on Hastings Street, a thoroughfare that serves as somewhat of an epicentre of the city's drug crisis.

"Politicians in British Columbia have failed to protect the health and safety of their constituents, leading to a record number of deaths," the organization said in a statement leading up to this week's demonstration.

"Access to these necessary substances is both inadequate and urgently needed... We are no longer willing to stand by and bear witness to the devastation of our community."

The Vancouver Police Department is just one group that has long been advocating for a safe supply for citizens facing addiction, as the province's Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, who also believes in decriminalizing drug possession of amounts for personal use.

"The criminal justice system exposes non-violent, otherwise law-abiding people to a great deal of harms that they would not otherwise experience,” Henry said last spring in a report on the subject.

"The societal stigma associated with drug use leads many to use drugs alone and hidden, increasing their risk of dying. B.C. cannot ‘treat’ its way out of this overdose crisis, or ‘arrest’ its way out either.”

Among DULFs calls to action are immediately including injectable heroin and cocaine into accessible, safe supply options; amending the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to decriminalize the simple possession of drugs; and defunding local police and reallocating the monies into community-led overdose response initiatives.

"Step up and address the issues that are killing us, or allow us access to the resources and funds to do it ourselves, outside of the constraints of this discriminatory structure," the group stated.

The province officially declared the rise in drug overdoses and deaths to be a public health emergency back in 2016.

Lead photo by

Steve PB

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