Organizers at the downtown east side’s pop up injection site are preparing for a potentially deadly week, with a new bad batch of drugs on the street just as social assistance cheques are released.
“You don’t want to be doing dope alone. Myself I’ve overdosed six times in the last five months.”
About 20 injection drug users sit beneath the white tents, naloxone packing organizers keep a watchful eye.
Coordinator Ann Livingston says they’ve added space and volunteers amid fears the toxic drug Carfentanil is behind the latest surge in overdoses.
“We were going along at a certain rate. And then we just saw it triple. No one has any money before welfare, and yet had these massive… you know it was just that every single person doing dope wasn’t able to just do their dope normally, they were going under,” she says.
Indeed it appears there is another bad batch; Vancouver Coastal Health says Insite reported 104 overdoses in the last week, 40 more than the same week last month.
READ MORE: Insite deals with another spate of overdoses
Livingston says the volunteer operations are barely keeping pace, with up to 30 users an hour.
“People come here and say I’m number 31 on the Insite list. That’s a long time to wait. And so you see that at Insite, if you just sit in there and watch, they’ll grab supplies and go to the alley. And you can see it all around that area, that’s why we have that other tent there,” she says.
Government action a must: Pop-up site Coordinator
Livingston says the sites are a lifeline, but without government willingness to try things like prescription heroin, the bodies will keep piling up.
“We just need to have these public conversations about this until we start saying ‘anyone who’s got a physical dependence on opioid is in a real catch. Because they need to go get that opioid. They can’t get it legally, they can’t get clean stuff, so they get this stuff that’s poisoned. And then we’re all stuck trying to save their lives instead of saying what do you do with someone who has an opioid adiction,” she says.
Drug user Joe says the timing of the latest wave of overdoses is no accident.
“You get really good dope prior to welfare day, the money day. And then they just bunk it out, they just sell a bunch of s**t on welfare day, when people got money, they’re already high already, they’re not going to notice the difference,” he says.
By 7 p.m. Wednesday, the site had not yet seen any overdoses.
Overdoses hit Surrey hard
Meanwhile, Surrey is battling its own wave of overdoses.
Between just Friday and Monday, Surrey Memorial Hospital saw 39 overdose cases come through the doors.
Fraser Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Shovita Padhi says it’s one of the worst spikes since a batch of fentanyl laced crack turned up in July.
“Usually in about a week, these past few months, we would see about 20 overdoses presenting to the emergency department. We’ve now seen a doubling since between Friday and Monday,” she says.
Padhi says it’s not just hard core drug users coming in, but people from all backgrounds.
She says officials are still trying to determine what’s behind the latest wave.