Legal heroin recommended to counter fentanyl crisis in B.C.

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      The B.C. Centre on Substance Use is proposing a model to combat the drug overdose crisis ravaging the province.

      The centre suggests the establishment of heroin compassion clubs that will provide members with supply that is not adulterated with fentanyl.

      Fentanyl is a powerful pain medication that is being blamed for overdose deaths in B.C. and across North America.

      “This report proposes an updated, members-only cooperative model through which heroin could be legally obtained from a pharmaceutical manufacturer and securely stored in much the same way as it is already obtained and stored for heroin prescription programs, while also undertaking scientific evaluation,” the BCSU states in a paper released Thursday (February 21).

      According to the report, this model is “inspired by cannabis compassion clubs and buyers clubs, both of which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s in response to the AIDS epidemic—the last public health emergency our province faced”.

      “The compassion or buyers club would function as a cooperative (or “co-op”), as an autonomous and democratic enterprise owned and operated by its members who share its benefits as they work towards mutually set goals,” the report explains.

      The document also proposes the evaluation of this approach “with an initial trial site or sites to be established in neighbourhoods with high overdose morbidity and mortality, such as Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside”.

      The report also notes that heroin was recommended because “most people with opioid addiction and at immediate risk of overdose prefer heroin to prescription opioids”.

      According to the document, B.C. has seen the most number of drug overdose deaths in the country, with 1,489 fatalities in 2018.

      “Preliminary data indicates that illicit fentanyl was detected (alone or in combination with other drugs) in approximately 82% of overdose deaths in 2017 and 85% of overdose deaths in 2018,” the report states.

      To read the full report: