Scale up B.C. drug-checking programs to save lives: centre on substance use

published on February 19, 2022 by Camille Bains in Winnipeg Free Press

VANCOUVER – Checking illicit drugs for deadly toxins is the best option to prevent fatal overdoses without a safer supply, but that service should be expanded to rural and remote communities in British Columbia, says the manager of a drug-checking program being evaluated by the BC Centre for Substance Use.

Jenny Matthews said drug users who live in non-urban areas often can’t get their drugs tested for contaminants, including high concentrations of fentanyl and, increasingly, benzodiazepines, for which the overdose-reversing medication naloxone is not as effective.

“Ideally, we want there to be a safer supply so that people don’t have to fight for access to drug checking, but in the short term we want to try and increase access to testing,” Matthews said.
Health authorities and non-profit groups run drug-checking programs in B.C. using two technologies: take-home test strips that detect the presence of fentanyl or benzodiazepines; and a device called a spectrometer, which is operated by a technician at overdose prevention sites to look for a variety of substances. Results are available in five to 10 minutes…
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