If you live or spend time in Vancouver, chances are you’ve witnessed someone openly using drugs on the street. While shocking, the city’s overdose epidemic, which primarily affects those living in and around the Downtown Eastside along East Hastings Street, hasn’t shown many signs of improvement since the official public emergency was declared six years ago.
A recent and morbid statistics update from the B.C. Coroners Service confirms things are as dire as ever among the province’s vulnerable drug-using population. This week it was announced that 174 people died from overdose in February, the highest number on record for the month, and just one up from last year’s count of 173. For perspective, that’s more than six fatalities from illicit drugs per day in B.C. alone. Of those fatalities, 74 percent were between the age of 30 and 59, and 78 percent were male.
To help combat the tainted drug supplies that continue to plague users in the province, the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF), a non-profit that advocates for safe drug supplies, shipped 17 grams of clean cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine across the province to members of different drug user groups.
This clean supply of drugs is the group’s response to what it calls a “continued large-scale inaction” on the government’s part. “The Drug User Liberation Front has taken matters into its own hands to provide a real regulated supply of drugs to people who use drugs across the province of B.C.,” the website states.
“A safe supply of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine is being given out for free to the membership of Drug User Groups across the Province to act in response to the sixth year anniversary of the declaration of a public health emergency in British Columbia, and yet another 174 lives lost to illicit drug toxicity in February.”
At 17 grams, it’s likely just a drop in the bucket of total illicit drug use in B.C. (we honestly have no idea how much heroin one needs to get a fix), but at least it’s a safe and clean drop. DULF’s supply is tested for fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, benzodiazepines and other commonly added harmful substances. The organization is reportedly keeping its distribution methods on the down low, likely for security reasons.
According to the organization, death from drug toxicity is the second leading cause of death in B.C. after cancer.