Province expands fentanyl testing and launches drug-checking pilot in Vancouver

published on November 10, 2017 by Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions Communications in BC Gov News

To provide potentially life-saving information to people who use drugs, a new drug-checking service is being tested in Vancouver – the first of its kind in Canada.

The pilot study began last week as part of the provincial government’s work to test whether making drug checking more widely available will help prevent overdose deaths.

“With dangerous drugs like fentanyl contaminating the majority of street drugs, giving people information on what’s in the substances they are using can help them make informed decisions about whether or how much they consume – and could save lives,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Our research into drug checking will help us answer key questions about how effective and reliable these technologies could be in reducing the devastating number of people dying across the province from overdoses.”

The City of Vancouver has partnered with the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) to fund the purchase and operation of a specialized drug-checking machine for a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of drug-checking services. The portable machine is now being used along with fentanyl test strips to check drugs for a wide range of contaminants at two supervised consumption sites in Vancouver, Insite and Powell Street Getaway.

The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions also is expanding the use of fentanyl test strips in all supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites in British Columbia. The ministry allocated $3 million to support drug testing provincewide as part of $322 million in new funding over the next three years to combat the overdose crisis and improve addictions care.

“This new drug-testing technology has the potential to save hundreds of lives in Vancouver by empowering substance users to adopt safer drug-use practices and ultimately reduce their risk of overdose,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “I’m proud to support this initiative through a $60,000 grant from the City’s Opioid Contingency Fund to the BC Centre on Substance Use to add a critical prevention element to the continuum of addiction services.”

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