Harm reduction interventions must be scaled up’: top disease expert

published on March 3, 2017 by David P. Ball in Metro News

B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s medical director calls for ‘expanded’ prescription opioids, and slams ‘drug policies that criminalize drug users.’

One of British Columbia’s top experts on diseases has slammed long-standing “drug policies that criminalize drug users,” in an op-ed in the B.C. Medical Journal’s new issue, and pushed for the expansion of government-prescribed opioids.

Dr. Mark Tyndall, provincial medical director of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, wrote about the province’s opioid overdose epidemic, which has killed almost 1,000 people in the last year “despite a public health emergency announcement in April 2016,” he wrote.

“Harm reduction interventions along with basic social supports are necessary to reduce suffering and prevent deaths,” Tyndall wrote. “Proven harm reduction interventions must be scaled up, including supervised injection sites, low-barrier supportive housing, better access to primary-care based opiate agonist therapy (OAT), and an expansion of prescription opioid programs.”

However, prescription heroin “” despite successful results from two landmark Vancouver studies, SALOME and NAOMI at the Crosstown Clinic “” has not yet been allowed beyond the roughly 130 hard-to-treat alumni of those pilot studies.

Last week, health minister Terry Lake said he was “open” to the possibility of expanding prescription heroin and hydromorphone “” but only on the advice of an expert substance-use committee, the B.C. Centre for Substance Use, and only in certain “appropriate” regions, citing overdose epicentres in the Downtown Eastside, Victoria and Surrey.

However, in January he said “we need the evidence first,” and in a later interview that prescription heroin was too publicly controversial to roll out.

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