September 1st, 2016
An astonishing 86 percent of the the drug samples tested at Insite, the supervised injection facility in Vancouver, during a four-week study contained fentanyl. The extremely potent opioid is often mixed with street heroin, and this combination has been implicated in numerous drug-related deaths.
Canadian health officials have long suspected this kind of prevalence of Fentanyl-laced drugs. Dr. Mark Lysyshyn of Vancouver Costal Health, told CBC: “this confirmed our suspicions that street drugs in Vancouver are overwhelmingly contaminated with fentanyl.”
Insite, which was the first facility of its kind in North America, offered free drug testing to clients between July 7 and August 3. A total of 173 drug tests were conducted. Among samples of heroin—or what was sold as heroin—90 percent contained at least some fentanyl.
It should be noted that the study doesn’t indicate that fentanyl is this prevalent among all drug samples. “People who check their drugs at Insite are most likely to check drugs they suspect might have fentanyl in them,” Dr. Lysyshyn pointed out.
But it certainly highlighted the general value of people being able to get their illicit drugs tested.
It also sheds light on a crisis in British Columbia, which experienced 371 illicit drug-related deaths in the first half of this year. Up to 60 percent of these deaths involved Fentanyl. The US has also experienced hundreds of deaths believed to be linked to fentanyl—the most prominent was that of the pop icon Prince.
British Columbia is blessed to have more progressive drug policies than the US, allowing harm reduction interventions such as Insite and heroin-assisted treatment to take place. Dr. Lysyshyn certainly sees the study’s disturbing finding as a sign that more supervised injection facilities, where medical supervision dramatically reduces the risks of drug use, are needed: “I think part of the provincial plan for this is to expand supervised injection services to all health authorities.”