Albertans call on province to take urgent action on drug poisoning crisis

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Harm reduction advocates handed out examples of a safe supply of regulated drugs at a rally on Tuesday afternoon calling on the Alberta government to take urgent action to address the poisoning crisis to drugs.

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Coinciding with the start of the legislative session, dozens of people gathered outside the Alberta Legislature for the second annual Dying for Access event.

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Advocates and loved ones of people who use drugs have called on the province to cancel the Narcotics Transition Services program, provide access to controlled substances, expand supervised consumption sites and provide better data on treatment programs.

« We’re here today because Albertans are still dying for access, » said organizer Petra Schulz, who founded Moms Stop the Harm.

“They are dying to have access to harm reduction, they are dying to have access to a safe and regulated supply, and they are dying to have access to evidence-based and responsible treatment.

« About five people a day are dying every day and it’s heartbreaking and needs to change, we need to do something differently. »

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Between January and August, there were 1,030 drug poisoning deaths in Alberta, 976 of which were related to opioids. During the same period in 2021, there were 1,111 drug poisoning deaths and 969 of them were opioid-related. Last year was the deadliest year on record for drug poisonings in the province.

  1. Mike Ellis, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, left, listens to Dr. Robert Tanguay, Co-Chair, Alberta Pain Strategy and Co-Director, Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Program, Alberta Health Services. The two were speaking at a press conference to announce new rules for the use of high potency opioids on October 5, 2022.

    Alberta’s new opioid program could increase barriers and harms, health professionals say

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In a statement, Colin Aitchison, spokesperson for the Mental Health and Addiction Mministryhighlighted the Government of Alberta’s recovery-oriented system of care, which focuses on prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.

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« Services that reduce harm can be part of a full continuum of care when operated effectively, » he said. « Over the past three years, we have taken significant steps to ensure that supervised consumption services and narcotics transition services are operated only in a highly professional manner. »

Schulz said the province’s main request is to provide a safe and regulated drug supply.

« Where controlled substances are available, people’s lives are stabilized, the number of crimes goes down because people don’t have to commit property crimes, find the money to buy the substances, the Health care utilization decreases, health-care costs are reduced,” Schulz said.

« There are so many benefits, but for us as families who have lost loved ones, the main benefits are that people live and as long as they live there is hope for the future. , you can connect them to services, and maybe they can find a treatment.”

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During the rally, advocates handed out an example of a safe supply of a « legal stimulant » – 28.3 milligrams of caffeine. Schulz said it’s an example of what an individual could possess in British Columbia when an exemption comes into effect Jan. 31 allowing adults to carry a cumulative amount of 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine , methamphetamine and MDMA.

« Our safe supply is caffeine and it won’t save lives, but it might support critical thinking, » Schulz said. « You just need to do different things differently here in Alberta because more of the same thing doesn’t work. »

But Aitchison said there are health and safety risks such as increased addiction and overdose rates if opioids are diverted to the community.

“We will continue to support Albertans in their quest for recovery while protecting the public from the risk of drug diversion,” he said.

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