B.C. urged to provide prescription narcotics at supervised sites (Dr. Eugenia Oviedo-Joekes)

Health officials in British Columbia want to provide pharmaceutical-grade opioids to some addicts at supervised-consumption sites to tackle the province’s soaring number of overdose deaths.

While they caution that there are no concrete plans yet, such a measure would make British Columbia the first province in Canada to provide prescription narcotics to addicts outside a clinical trial, while significantly expanding the role of facilities such as Vancouver’s Insite – the country’s first public supervised injection site, which has never offered drugs to users who inject there.

A recent study out of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, called SALOME, found that hydromorphone is an effective maintenance tool in treating a chronic heroin addiction. Participants could not discern whether they were receiving heroin or hydromorphone, suggesting street heroin – stigma-laden and often cut with other substances – could be replaced with the licensed pain medication.

Andrea Woo reports

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