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When the Middle seems extreme

Faced with a growing public health crisis, ideas that seemed radical even 10 years ago are being reconsidered – like legalizing street drugs.


In my circle of friends there are six families devastated by the fentanyl crisis — only three had any history of recreational drug use, and only one had identified a severe addiction.

Six families who are middle to upper middle class, educated, food secure.

Six families destroyed by addiction and/or the current fentanyl tainted drug supply.

That’s just me. How many do you know?

One of the Moms, surviving the addiction related death of her son, recently expressed her helplessness as she watches her other grown child struggle with serious addiction. He’s on a spiral and there’s absolutely nothing she can do — the system is broken and finding the right help is next to impossible.

We were having a frank discussion recently where she said, “I feel like walking down the middle of the street with a bullhorn screaming HELP!!”

When I asked Louise Cameron, this mom, if I could quote her here she answered without hesitation with a resounding “yes”.

Her pain breaks my heart and yet her strength solidifies my everlasting respect and admiration.

Louise has dedicated her life to helping families, like hers, avoid the pain of a loved one in the grips of addiction. She is a force, spending endless hours volunteering, united in grief with like-minded mothers, on a mission to remove the stigma of drug addiction and see it recognized as the medical issue that it is.

We need to find a way to support those on the brink of suicide due to stigma or the risks associated with street drugs laced with death.

It feel like just yesterday when headlines with “overdose death” came with a safe assumption that the tragedy took place in a marginalized neighbourhood.

No longer is that reality.

There was a time, not long ago, that we would only really hear of overdoses in marginalized areas where hardcore drug users congregated.

Today, opioid addiction is everywhere. Fentanyl has slithered into the illegal drug supply in Canada, into all walks and every neighbourhood. More than four people a day are dying in BC, eleven each day in Canada.

These stats add up quickly. Tragically more than 9,000 people lost their lives in Canada between January 2016 and June 2018. These are grim stats, calling for radical action.

Good citizens dying needlessly leaving families left to struggle in the devastating aftermath. It is unimaginable - unthinkable - and yet seemingly everywhere, touching all of us.

Years tick by with exhausting studies and discussions breaking down what “might be done” to stop the flood of illicit drugs pouring into Canada. You read Travis Lupick or follow Sarah Blythe, locally, and you know these frontline volunteers and champions of change are seeing clearly what most of us turn away from in fear.

Education is key: today, we teach our teens about how “dabbling” in street drugs is now akin to Russian Roulette. We hope, beyond hope, that the feeling of being invincible doesn’t prevent them from understanding that using street drugs once may be the last thing you ever do.

The reality is our street drug supply, from heroin to black market pot, is largely tainted by deadly fentanyl.

By now you’ve been educated on fentanyl - 100 times stronger than morphine - used medically to help treat severe chronic pain. It’s a powerful medicine when used responsibly, but unfortunately more often now used as an addictive and inexpensive booster in heroin and cocaine.

A kilo of fentanyl can be purchased for next to nothing online, and then sold on the street for $10 million. Tasteless and odourless, it is often sold on the black market as another substance so those who swallow, snort, or inject it do not realize what they are taking.

The contamination of fentanyl is quite often catastrophic, if a naloxone kit is not present.

Battling the epidemic of fentanyl deaths to date has seen Health Care Providers make naloxone kits available, at no cost, at any pharmacy and offer online training for administering it. On top of that there are Public Service Announcements airing on TV and Radio pleading for drug users in all walks of life to “not use alone”.

None of these measures are having meaningful impact on the over-dose crisis in our province, leading health experts to call for legally regulated heroin sales. Drastic measures for an epidemic that is far beyond control with band-aids.

Organized crime will not stop — our laws see those acting as drug mules avoiding prosecution on technicalities and money launderers pivot past our legal system ill equipped to halt the Vancouver Model of loophole navigation.

The Middle between fentanyl deaths and criminals profiting from their addiction may just be legal hard drugs.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.