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British Columbia to re-criminalize hard drug use in public after massive policy failure

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From LifeSiteNews

By Clare Marie Merkowsky

British Columbia premier David Eby announced that his province plans to re-criminalize hard drug use in public spaces after its decriminalization last year led to widespread social disorder.

British Columbia is asking the Trudeau government to roll back its drug decriminalization program after increased violence and continued overdoses.  

On April 26, New Democratic Party (NDP) premier of British Columbia David Eby announced that he is working with Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s federal government to re-criminalize drug use in public spaces, including inside hospitals, on transit, and in parks. British Columbia, under permission from the Trudeau government, had decriminalized such behavior in 2023.

“Keeping people safe is our highest priority,” Eby explained in a press release. “While we are caring and compassionate for those struggling with addiction, we do not accept street disorder that makes communities feel unsafe.”  

“We’re taking action to make sure police have the tools they need to ensure safe and comfortable communities for everyone as we expand treatment options so people can stay alive and get better,” he continued. 

Under the new regulations, police would be given the power to prevent drug use in all public places, including hospitals, restaurants, transit, parks and beaches.   

However, drug use would remain legal at “a private residence or place where someone is legally sheltering, or at overdose prevention sites and drug checking locations.”  

Eby’s concerns over drug use were echoed by Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth who said, “Our communities are facing big challenges. People are dying from deadly street drugs, and we see the issues with public use and disorder on our streets.”   

“As we continue to go after the gangs and organized criminals who are making and trafficking toxic drugs, we’re taking action now to make it illegal to use drugs in public spaces, and to expand access to treatment to help people who need it most,” he promised.   

Under the policy, the federal government began allowing people within the province to possess up to 2.5 grams of hard drugs without criminal penalty, but selling drugs remained a crime. 

While British Columbia has not yet indicated it plans to re-criminalize possession, its decision to clamp down on public drug use presents a major departure from its previous tactics of continually liberalizing its attitude toward narcotic use.

Since being implemented, the province’s drug policy has been widely criticized, especially after it was found that the province broke three different drug-related overdose records in the first month the new law was in effect. 

The effects of decriminalizing hard drugs in various parts of Canada has been exposed in Aaron Gunn’s recent documentary, Canada is Dying, and in U.K. Telegraph journalist Steven Edginton’s mini-documentary, Canada’s Woke Nightmare: A Warning to the West.   

Gunn says he documents the “general societal chaos and explosion of drug use in every major Canadian city.”   

“Overdose deaths are up 1,000 percent in the last 10 years,” he said in his film, adding that “[e]very day in Vancouver four people are randomly attacked.”  

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Addictions

Trudeau gov’t earmarks over $27 million for ‘safe supply’ drug program linked to overdoses and violence

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From LifeSiteNews

By Clare Marie Merkowsky

The taxpayer money will help fund 22 drug distribution projects in British Columbia and Ontario.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is planning to spend over $27 million on “safe supply” drug programs this year.

This week, Health Canada revealed that the Trudeau government has budgeted over $27 million in funding for “safe supply” drug programs that have been linked to increased violence and overdose deaths across Canada, according to information obtained by Rebel News.

“With regard to planned funding by the government related to ‘safe’ or ‘safer’ supply programs: How much does the government plan on spending on such programs, broken down by department, agency, and initiative in the current fiscal year and in each of the next five fiscal years?” Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Tako Van Popta had questioned in April.

Safe supply” is the term used to refer to government-prescribed drugs given to addicts under the assumption that a more controlled batch of narcotics reduces the risk of overdose. Critics of the policy argue that giving addicts drugs only enables their behavior, puts the public at risk, disincentivizes recovery from addiction and has not reduced — and sometimes even increased — overdose deaths when implemented.

Three months later, on June 17, the House of Commons revealed that the Trudeau government plans to spend an excess of $27 million to fund 22 drug distribution projects in British Columbia and Ontario.

The two largest recipients of federal funding are in Ontario, with Toronto’s South Riverdale Community Health Centre receiving $2.7 million and Kitchener’s K-W Working Centre for the Unemployed receiving $2.1 million.

In British Columbia, the largest recipient is the AVI Health and Community Services Society SAFER North Island in Campbell River at $2.02 million.

The Trudeau government’s funding for increased drug use comes after the program proved such a disaster in British Columbia that the province recently requested Trudeau recriminalize drugs in public spaces. Nearly two weeks later, the Trudeau government announced it would “immediately” end the province’s drug program.

Beginning in early 2023, Trudeau’s federal policy, in effect, decriminalized hard drugs on a trial-run basis in British Columbia.

Since being implemented, the province’s drug policy has been widely criticized, especially after it was found that the province broke three different drug-related overdose records in the first month the new law was in effect.

The effects of decriminalizing hard drugs in various parts of Canada have been exposed in Aaron Gunn’s recent documentary, Canada is Dying, and in U.K. Telegraph journalist Steven Edginton’s mini-documentary, Canada’s Woke Nightmare: A Warning to the West.

Gunn says he documents the “general societal chaos and explosion of drug use in every major Canadian city.”

“Overdose deaths are up 1,000 percent in the last 10 years,” he said in his film, adding that “(e)very day in Vancouver four people are randomly attacked.”

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Addictions

“Safer supply” reminiscent of the OxyContin crisis, warns addiction physician

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Dr. Lori Regenstreif, MD, MSc, CCFP (AM), FCFP, MScCH (AMH), CISAM, has been working as an addiction medicine physician in inner city Hamilton, Ontario, since 2004. She co-founded the Shelter Health Network in 2005 and the Hamilton Clinic’s opioid treatment clinic in 2010, and helped found the St. Joseph’s Hospital Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic.

[This article is part of Break The Needle’s “Experts Speak Up” series, which documents healthcare professionals’ experiences with Canada’s “safer supply” programs] By: Liam Hunt

Dr. Lori Regenstreif, an addiction physician with decades of experience on the frontlines of Canada’s opioid crisis, is sounding the alarm about the country’s rapidly expanding “safer supply” programs.

While proponents of safe supply contend that providing drug users with free tablets of hydromorphone – a pharmaceutical opioid roughly as potent as heroin – can mitigate harms, Dr. Regenstreif expresses grave concern that these programs may inadvertently perpetuate new addictions and entrench existing opioid use.

She sees ominous similarities between safer supply and the OxyContin crisis of the late 1990s, when the widespread overprescribing of opioids flooded North American communities with narcotics, sparking an addiction crisis that continues to this day. Having witnessed the devastating consequences of OxyContin in the late 1990s, she believes that low-quality and misleading research is once again encouraging dangerous overprescribing practices.

Flashbacks to the OxyContin Crisis

Soon after Dr. Regenstreif received her medical license in Canada, harm reduction became the primary framework guiding her practice in inner-city Vancouver. This period coincided with Health Canada’s 1996 regulatory approval of oxycodone (brand name: OxyContin) based on trials, sponsored by Purdue Pharma, that failed to assess the serious risks of misuse or addiction.

Dr. Regenstreif subsequently witnessed highly addictive prescription opioids flood North American streets while Purdue and its distributors reaped record profits at the expense of vulnerable communities. “That was really peaking in the late 90s as I was coming into practice,” she recounted during an extended interview with Break The Needle. “I was being pressured to prescribe it as well.”

Oxycodone addiction led to the deaths of tens of thousands of individuals in the United States and Canada. As a result, Purdue Pharma faced criminal penalties, fines, and civil settlements amounting to 8.5 billion USD, ultimately leading to the company’s bankruptcy in 2019.

During the OxyContin crisis, patients would regularly procure large amounts of pharmaceutical opioids for resale on the black market – a process known as “diversion.” Dr. Regenstreif has seen alarming indications that safer supply hydromorphone is being diverted at similarly high levels, and estimated that, out of her patient pool, “15 to 20 out of maybe 40 people who have to go to a pharmacy frequently” have reported witnessing diversion.

Between one to two thirds of her new patients have told her that they are accessing diverted hydromorphone tablets – in many cases, the tablets almost certainly originate from safer supply.

Injecting crushed hydromorphone tablets pose severe health risks, including endocarditis and spinal abscesses. “I’ve seen people become quadriplegic and paraplegic because the infection invaded their spinal cord and damaged their nervous system,” said Dr. Regenstreif. While infections can be mitigated by reducing the number of times drug users inject drugs into their bodies, she says that safer supply programs do not discourage or reduce injections.

She further noted, “I’ve seen a teenager in [the] hospital getting their second heart valve replacement because they continue to inject after the first one.” The pill that nearly stopped the patient’s heart was one of the tens of thousands of hydromorphone tablets handed out daily via Canadian safe supply programs.

Her experiences are consistent with preliminary data from a scientific paper published by JAMA Internal Medicine in January, which found that safe supply distribution in British Columbia is associated with a “substantial” increase in opioid-related hospitalizations, rising by 63% over the first two years of program implementation — all without reducing deaths by a statistically significant margin.

While Dr. Regenstreif has worked in a variety of settings, from Ontario’s youth correctional system to Indigenous healing facilities in the Northwest Territories, her experiences in Australia, where she worked during a sabbatical year from 2013 to 2014, were particularly educational.

Australia has far fewer opioid-related deaths than Canada – in 2021, opioid mortality rates were 3.8 per 100,000 in Australia and 21 per 100,000 in Canada (a difference of over 500%). Dr. Regenstreif credited this difference to Australia’s comparatively controlled opioid landscape, where access to pharmaceutical narcotics is tightly regulated.

“Heroin had been a long-standing street opioid. It was really the only opioid you tended to see, because the only other ones people could get a prescription for were over-the-counter, low-potency codeine tablets,” she said. To this day, opioid prescriptions in Australia require special approval for repeat supplies, preventing stockpiling and street diversion.

No real evidence supports “safer supply”

Critics and whistleblowers have argued that Canadian safe supply programs, which have received over $100 million in federal funding through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP), were initiated without adhering to the rigorous evidentiary standards typically required to classify medication as “safe.”

Dr. Regenstreif shares these concerns and says that no credible studies show that safer supply saves lives, and that little effort is invested into exploring its possible risks and unintended consequences – such as increased addiction, hospitalization, overdose and illicit diversion to youth and vulnerable individuals.

Most studies which support the experiment simply interview recipients of safer supply and then present their answers as objective evidence of success. Dr. Regenstreif criticized these qualitative studies as methodologically flawed “customer satisfaction surveys,” as they are “very selective” and rely on small, bias-prone samples.

“If you have 400 people in a program, and you get feedback from 12, and 90% of those 12 said X, that’s not [adequate] data,” said Dr. Regenstreif, criticizing the lack of follow-up often shown safer supply researchers. “Nobody seems to track down the […] people who were not included. Did they get kicked out of the program? [Did they engage in] diversion? Did they die? We’re not hearing about that. It doesn’t make any sense in an empirical scientific universe.”

Safe supply advocates typically argue that opioids themselves are not problematic, but rather their unregulated and illicit supply, as this allows for contaminants and unpredictable dosing. However, studies have found that opioid-related deaths rise when narcotics, legal or not, are more widely available.

Dr. Regensteif is calling upon harm reduction researchers to build a more robust evidence base before calling for the expansion of safer supply. That includes more methodologically rigorous and transparent quantitative research to evaluate the full impact of Canada’s harm reduction strategies. Forgoing this evidence or adequate risk-prevention measures could lead to consequences as catastrophic as those resulting from Purdue’s deceptive marketing of OxyContin, she said.

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Critics propose solutions despite bullying

Dr. Regenstreif has faced pressure and exclusion for speaking out against safe supply. She estimates that while only a quarter of her local colleagues shared her doubts a few years ago, “now I would say more than half” harbor the same concerns. However, many are reluctant to voice their reservations publicly, fearing professional or social repercussions. “People who don’t want to speak out don’t want to be labeled as right-wing […] they don’t want to be labeled as conservative.”

While she acknowledges that safe supply may play a limited role for a small subset of patients, she believes it has been oversold as a panacea without adequate safeguards or due evaluation. “It doesn’t seem as if policymakers are listening to the people on the ground who have experience in doing this,” she said.

She contends that the solution to Canada’s addiction crisis lies in a more holistic, recovery-oriented approach that includes all four pillars of addiction: harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. Her vision includes a national network of publicly-funded, rapid-access addiction medicine clinics with integrated counseling and wraparound services.

Additionally, Dr. Regenstreif stresses the importance of building upon established opioid agonist treatments (OAT), like methadone and buprenorphine, rather than solely relying on novel approaches whose social and medical risks are not yet fully understood.

At the core of Dr. Regenstreif’s advocacy lies a profound dedication to her patients and to the science of addiction medicine. “I like to think I kind of am fear-mongering with my patients, [by] trying to make them afraid of not getting better,” she explains. “I don’t want them to end up in the hospital and not come back out. I don’t want them to end up dead.”


[This article has been co-published with The Bureau, a Canadian media outlet that tackles corruption and foreign influence campaigns through investigative journalism. Subscribe to their work to get the latest updates on how organized crime influences the Canadian drug trade.]

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