Advocates say safe drug supply needed to combat spike in opioid overdose deaths in Canada

From the Global News article:

Dan Werb, executive director of the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said the unregulated drug supply in the illegal market has been getting increasingly more potent and toxic for decades, but the pandemic has made things even worse.

“There were border restrictions and restrictions on movements that affected international drug trafficking and national drug trafficking across Canada,” Werb told Global News. “Every industry has been affected by COVID, and illegal drugs are no different.”

He said deadly amounts of fentanyl, carfentanyl, and even etodesnitazene — a high-potency synthetic opioid — are being found on the streets.“These drugs that are showing up in the drug market are new, but the trends that have led us to seem increasingly potent and toxic chemicals show up in these drug markets [are] not new. This is old. It’s the result of trying to criminalize our way out of the overdose epidemic. And it’s just simply not working.”

Potent opioids showing up in Toronto’s drug supply for 1st time as overdose deaths mount


Several forms of extremely potent synthetic opioids are being found in random samples of Toronto’s street drug supply, which experts say is indicative of increased risk for people in a city grappling with an overdose crisis.

“What’s very dangerous for people who use drugs is just that the supply is getting stronger, and it’s also just completely unpredictable — and what people are buying isn’t necessarily what they’re getting,” said Karen McDonald, the lead for Toronto’s drug checking service, which operates out of St. Michael’s hospital.

“It’s definitely alarming to us.”

New ‘ultra potent’ opioids hitting Toronto streets in recent weeks as overdose deaths mount

From the Toronto Star article:

…The opioids were identified by the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation (CDPE), a Toronto-based research agency that collects and tests small samples of street drugs collected from users and dealers. The ultra-potent opioids were primarily found in samples that were thought to be straight fentanyl.

An analysis of newly obtained data on opioid overdoses across the country — including numbers from provincial coroners, street drug tests in Ontario and B.C., and a previously unpublished national drug user survey — reveals a national crisis spiking into uncharted territory during the pandemic.

Toronto saw an 81 per cent jump in opioid-related deaths between 2019 and late 2020.

Border closures and drug supply chain disruptions are blamed by researchers for creating a cocktail of new drugs and compounds.

“Any time you disrupt drug trafficking routes, unexpected things will happen,” said Daniel Werb, the executive director of the CDPE and a research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital. “That’s why you see increasingly potent opioids on the market because the higher the potency, the more efficient the package is, the easier it is to traffic.”

Islanders can access rapid HIV self-tests anonymously through national program


A new HIV self-testing and research program could ensure more Islanders get a diagnosis and the followup support they need.

The I’m Ready program is national in scope and was launched this month by Reach Nexus, a research group. Canadians can order HIV test kits online through a mobile app and get them delivered to their home, or to a local pick-up spot. PEERS Alliance, a sexual health centre in Charlottetown, is a pick-up location on P.E.I. for the program.

“We estimate that there’s over 8,000 people that are living with HIV in Canada and don’t know it,” said Dr. Sean Rourke, a clinical neuropsychologist and a scientist at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, which is involved in the program. 

They were afraid of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. How a talk with the family doctor changed their minds


Dr. Tara Kiran knew she was close. The family physician had spent weeks trying to convince her patients, a mom and daughter who lived and worked in a COVID-19 hot spot in Toronto, to get vaccinated. Months had passed since they became eligible for their shots. Now they were in her office together for an appointment and it seemed like they might finally be ready.

The patients, Esther, 66, and her daughter Alice, 39, trusted Kiran. She had been their family doctor for nearly a decade. She knew their health histories, their families, what they did for a living, what kept them up at night. If they decided to get the vaccine, there was only one person they wanted holding the syringe.

“I’m not getting it unless I can get it from Dr. Kiran,” Alice told her husband before the appointment.

There was only one problem. Kiran didn’t have any vaccine to give.

That day in June, Esther and Alice sat in Kiran’s office, a small room with green walls, an examination bed, three pieces of art hung slightly askew and two chairs alongside the doctor’s desk from which the patients asked a question she heard often: Can we get the vaccine here, in the clinic, from you?