The latest numbers on overdose deaths in the province suggest there’s no sign of the opioid crisis slowing down.
But one UBC professor says, there’s a solution that would curb the problem – though it’s not one you’d expect.
Mark Haden, an Adjunct Professor with UBC’s School of Population and Public Health says clinics like Insite should be providing pure opioids like heroin to users.
“One of the things about heroin addicts is they prefer heroin to fentanyl,” he says.
“If you actually provide people heroin, they will take their heroin. Heroin was demonstrated by both the NAOMI and SALOME studies to be preferable to our gold standard which is methadone. Just offering one alternative in opioid maintenance, is insufficient.”
Those groundbreaking studies looked at the effects of providing hard-core addicts with lab grade drugs to treat addiction.
“If you want people to function well in society and you see that as being the issue to get people employed back to work, there is nothing that a heroin maintenance would offer that would stand in the way of that. People can be maintained on opioid drugs, and they are relatively inexpensive, they aren’t costly,” Haden says.
He says heroin should be considered as a treatment option alongside suboxone and methadone.
Doing so, he says, would prevent users from buying more potent drugs off the streets mixed with fentanyl or W-18.
“The reason why people are getting fentanyl is because it’s available in the illegal market, so what you have to do is compete with the illegal market,” Haden says.
The BC Coroners Service released data earlier today, showing 622 people have died this year alone of illicit drug overdoses, a 56% jump over 2015.