VANCOUVER – The BC Centre for Disease Control is calling for the expansion of prescription opioids in place of contaminated street drugs as a way to combat the province’s overdose death crisis.
The idea to expand the prescribing of opioids such as injectable heroin and long-acting slow-release oral morphine is among 10 areas of action that came out of a meeting in June.
The B.C. Overdose Action Exchange meeting involved 130 people including health professionals and drug users and resulted in a report released by the centre on Wednesday.
Its first recommendation is to consult with illicit drug users and allow for education and training in overdose prevention.
The centre’s executive medical director Dr. Mark Tyndall says he heard over and over again that the overdose crisis is about more than just drugs.
Other recommendations include support for pain management therapies, increasing the number of doctors and nurse practitioners trained in addiction medicine and countering stigma against drug users.
The BC Coroners Service has said 780 people died in the province between January and June of this year and that the powerful opioid fentanyl was detected in many of the deaths.
The death toll is almost 90 per cent higher than during the same period last year, when B.C. declared a state of emergency into the startling trend.
Tyndall says he hopes the recommendations will be used as a guide to action.
“It is a crisis that has a tremendous impact on people, people who live with trauma and addictions, their families, friends and the communities they live in,” he says in a news release.
Minister of Addictions Judy Darcy says the exchange is giving people with frontline experience a voice in the fight against overdose deaths.
“We will be looking at the recommendations closely to determine how they will contribute to our work to implement a seamless system for mental health and addictions in B.C.”