The 2018 Pride season is upon us. Where there's Pride, there's always a party. Where there's a party, there's sometimes drugs. And, in 2018, where there's drugs in B.C., there's often fentanyl.
Acknowledging that sad reality with a pragmatic response, Vancouver's Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) and the Health Initiative for Men (HIM) have teamed up to offer drug testing at this year's Pride celebrations.
“Drugs today are not what people think they are and increasingly they are contaminated with fentanyl, the toxic substance responsible for the majority of fatal overdoses in BC,” said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, medical health officer at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), quoted in a July 26 media release. “Drug checking provides people with information about the drugs they are planning to consume so they can take measures to stay safe: dispose of contaminated drugs, take a lower dose, don't use alone, get a naloxone kit and consider addiction treatment if that's right for you.”
Testing for the dangerous synthetic-opioid fentanyl will be available today (July) 30 between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and on August 3 between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. at HIM's home at the Davie Health Centre, at 1033 Davie Street, unit 416 (buzzer 416).
Outside of those hours, fentanyl test strips are available in Vancouver at Insite (139 East Hastings Street) and at several overdose-prevention sites in the Downtown Eastside. (In September 2016, the Straight reported that anyone can purchase the test strips directly from BTNX Inc, an Ontario biotechnology company. A package of 50 costs $175, plus shipping.)
All tests at every location are anonymous.
Today's media release for Pride notes that in B.C., fentanyl is being found in drugs other than substances sold as heroin. "From our preliminary testing, we found that 6% of stimulants tested in Vancouver contained fentanyl, pointing to the risk of contamination in substances beyond opioids," it reads.
While fentanyl is being found in cocaine and other stimulants with increasing frequency, the extent of its contamination of those markets remains limited compared to opioid supplies.
A six-month study by the B.C. Centre on Substance Use found that 90 percent of substances sold to users as opioids tested positive for fentanyl.
But again, fentanyl is being found in substances sold in B.C. as stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine.
Last year there were 1,449 fatal overdoses in B.C. Fentanyl and its analogs were associated with 84 percent of them.