Canada faces deadly fentanyl overdose crisis

published on January 2, 2017 by Deborah Jones in Yahoo

Vancouver (AFP) – Sirens scream non-stop through the urban heart of Vancouver, as responders race toward drug addicts overdosing — and dying in such numbers that the city’s morgues are full.

This wealthy Pacific coast city is the bleak epicenter of an opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives in Canada, while next door in the United States, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death.

“There’s not a single person down here that’s chosen to be a junkie,” said Martin Steward, a self-admitted drug user who manages a treatment facility in Vancouver’s gritty Downtown Eastside neighborhood where the crisis is concentrated.

The emergency room at St. Paul’s hospital has handled more than 6,000 overdose patients so far this year, said physician Nadia Fairbairn.

“Vancouver is right in the middle of the crisis,” she said.

In December, officials launched a mobile overdose clinic in the Downtown Eastside, staffed by emergency and addiction physicians.

Agencies have also set up rooms, and even tents in alleys, staffed by trained volunteers equipped with some 18,000 kits distributed by the government.

Each contains injectable naloxone, which quickly counters the effect of most opioids.

Most policy experts agree there is little prospect for stopping the supply of cheap synthetic opioids. Authorities say most are shipped from China, and mixed in Canada with other drugs or pressed into pills.

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