BC insists its unregulated illicit drug policy works despite record deaths

One yr into BC’s three-year drug decriminalization experiment, Psychological Well being and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside says ending decriminalization gained’t save “a single life,” despite the fact that BC had a record-high variety of overdose deaths in 2023.

On January 31 2023, Well being Canada issued BC a three-year exemption beneath the Managed Medication and Substances Act permitting grownup drug customers to hold as much as 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy for private use.

The overdose disaster has claimed nearly 14,000 lives in BC since a public well being emergency was declared in April 2016. Deaths attributable to suspected illicit medicine hit a file 2,511 final yr.

“The decriminalization pilot challenge is a part of BC’s broader work to deal with the continued poisonous drug disaster and we’re starting to see outcomes. We’ve already seen a lower within the criminalizing of people who find themselves residing with dependancy, to allow them to be higher related to well being care they want,” Whiteside wrote.

“This previous yr has seen a regarding improve in poisonous drug deaths in provinces throughout the nation and BC was no exception. Ending this measure is not going to save a single life. Because the toxicity of illicit avenue medicine continues to extend, extra persons are at critical threat.”

In her assertion, Whiteside mentioned the aim was “to scale back the worry and disgrace related to dependancy, so extra individuals can really feel snug reaching out for assist” and to maintain individuals from being “trapped within the courtroom system.”

“Concern of felony repercussions will increase dangers of overdose by main individuals with dependancy challenges to cover their substance use and deters individuals from calling for assist throughout an overdose,” she defined.

“Our authorities stays decided to stem the tide of the illicit drug poisoning disaster by doing every little thing we are able to to assist individuals and save lives. This measure, as one a part of our complete, ongoing actions, will assist us get there.”

The BC Coroners Service issued a public security warning in December that poisonous drug deaths in BC numbered seven per day within the earlier seven weeks.

“Unregulated drug deaths within the winter months have traditionally elevated over the numbers reported throughout the remainder of the yr, so this early improve might be an indication of one other difficult season for individuals who use medicine in BC,” her workplace mentioned in an announcement.

Poisonous medicine are the main reason behind loss of life in BC for individuals aged 10 to 59, accounting for extra deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and pure ailments mixed, in line with the BCCS.

Coroner Lisa Lapointe introduced her resignation in December, efficient February 18 this yr.

“We see these advert hoc bulletins however sadly what we have not seen is a considerate, evidence-based, data-driven plan for a way we’re going to scale back the variety of deaths in our province,” Lapointe mentioned in an interview with CBC.

Lapointe mentioned she was frightened about politics creeping into public well being selections, particularly relating to overdose insurance policies. She issued a loss of life assessment panel report calling for a protected provide of medicine with out prescription, however each the minister and the opposition critic rejected the concept. Within the interview, she brazenly questioned whether or not the federal government had even learn it.

Federal Conservative candidate Aaron Gunn had a vital view of protected provide insurance policies in his 2022 documentary Vancouver is Dying. The movie steered that hurt discount and soft-on-crime insurance policies had been facilitating crime and drug-related deaths.

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