Illicit drug users across the province given easier access to safe supply - InfoNews

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Illicit drug users across the province given easier access to safe supply

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March 28, 2020 - 11:21 AM

In response to COVID-19, illicit drug users across the province will now have an easier time accessing substitute narcotics after Health Canada loosened regulations.

The new measures, which are effective immediately and have been rolled out across the province, will allow people struggling with various drug addictions to access prescriptions for substitute drugs over the phone, as well as get those prescriptions delivered while in self-isolation.

The measures are part of the new clinical guidance for health-care providers dealing with the ongoing opioid crisis and COVID-19, announced by the province, March 26.

"We're starting to see....the effects of COVID-19 (on) the illicit drug supply, which is making substance use even more dangerous and unpredictable," B.C. Centre on Substance Use spokesperson Kevin Hollett told iNFOnews.ca.

Normally if someone with an opioid addiction wanted to obtain substitute opioids like methadone or hydromorphone, they would need to be face-to-face with a healthcare professional to get a prescription. The new measures allow people to obtain prescriptions over the phone.

Often these prescriptions only allow for one day's supplier of drugs at a time, meaning people have to go to the pharmacy on a daily basis. The new measures will now allow for up to three weeks worth of supply. Measures have also been put in place allowing for the delivery of these prescription drugs, allowing people who are self-isolating to stay home.

Hollett said the new measures are all about lowering the barriers people face in obtaining a safe supply of substitute drugs.

The new initiatives have come about after the federal government made regulatory changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, in response to COVID-19. The changes enacted give temporary exemptions allowing for the province to make changes to its policy. 

Hollett said like many other aspects of society, the illicit drug supply chain had been interrupted by COVID-19, and shortages and higher costs could lead to withdrawals.

"When people are forced into withdrawal there are many negative health impacts that go along with that," he said.

The City of Vancouver announced March 26, it was working on measures to help residents of the Downtown Eastside during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Calls for a safe, regulated supply of drugs to help stem the opioid crisis have been made by the various organizations prior to the COVID-19 situation.

"People are very hopeful that this is something that will continue in place," Hollett.

A province wide list of Opioid Agonist Treatment Clinics can be found here.


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