May 27, 2016 - 1:00 PM
KAMLOOPS - The number of syringes discarded by illicit drug users in public spaces in Kamloops has risen dramatically, according to a local social agency tasked with collecting them.
Bob Hughes, executive director of ASK Wellness in Kamloops, says over the past six months, the average collection has at least doubled, up from a couple hundred a month to more than 500 a month and a spike of over 1,000 in April after a dump site on a beach near Schubert Drive was found. He notes these are estimates only.
"There's an unprecedented state of discarded needles for last six months," Hughes says. “It’s hard to say (how many) when you’re picking up piles of them. We’re not counting them individually.”
He says in the past needle users often disposed of their drug paraphernalia more responsibly. Recently that’s not been the case, with piles of needles found in hot spots around the city because people are dumping a month’s worth of needles at a time.
ASK Wellness is now sending staff members out almost daily to check hot spots around the city.
“There is more intravenous drug use than we have seen in a long time,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a very intense summer.”
The rise in syringes found is partly due to increased distribution, he says, with harm reduction programs giving needles out in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, there are more needles in the community.
“The needle exchange program changed,” he says. “There isn’t an expectation to bring needles back anymore.”
ASK Wellness does ask for used needles in exchange for new ones, he says.
Hughes says heroin users go through five or six needles a day, while it's two or three for methamphetamine users. There are some intravenous cocaine users adding to the load, but he thinks it's trending down while opiate use trends up. He adds pure heroin is less common right now because fentanyl is often at least part of the mix.
If people see needles and want them picked up, Hughes says to call his organization’s outreach team at 250-851-5949.
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