Drug tragedy worsens

The reported number of BC’s overdose deaths in 2015 was 44 per month. That number seemed appalling but now, with the death rate almost three times higher, the situation has deteriorated. Illicit drug deaths in BC are five times the number of deaths from motor vehicle incidents. 


Sadly, in the last 3-month period reported, the drug tragedy has grown worse.


Deaths from drug overdoses in British Columbia are worse than in the rest of Canada.


The elevated dangers of illicit drugs in BC is sometimes explained by elevated potency because the Port of Vancouver is an importation centre for illegal substances. Yet, nearby King County has much port traffic and an illicit drug death rate less than half that of Vancouver.

Severity of the Vancouver drug problem has many causative factors. Sarah Berman, writing in VICE, quoted Dr. Thomas Kerr, Associate Director of the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU):

The fact we have this large network of low income housing that was originally developed for seasonal workers, and over time became homes for the urban poor and the deinstitutionalized mentally ill population, it just created a bad situation.

If you take a population at risk, put them in substandard housing, criminalize them, and you throw police at them, you tend to make a drug problem worse, not better.

You can’t tell this story without acknowledging we have been totally lacking an effective system of addiction treatment, and it’s been like that for a very long time. We’ve gone from saying the system is broken to saying there is no system.

Instead of fixing a broken system, government policies degraded it. For 16 years, Liberals were more concerned about the health of corporate contributors than the health of citizens.  Regrettably, they believed criminal courts provided the most appropriate responses to poverty and drug use.

This self-congratulation is from Gordon Campbell’s Liberal platform:

Vancouver’s Downtown Community Court – a first in Canada. That court will process some 1,500 offenders a year, including many who are caught in the downward spiral of alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness and poverty…

Our Platform will expand Community Courts to other communities, to expedite sentencing and support aimed at preventing crimes, appropriately punishing criminals, and reducing repeat offenders…

In 2012, the Globe and Mail published Jails don’t keep people out of jail, an article written by former heads of Correctional Service Canada, the Parole Board of Canada and the Office of the Correctional Investigator:

Our collective experience and decades of research tell us that increased rates of incarceration neither decrease crime nor act as a deterrent to it. Safer communities and effective crime prevention are achieved through the development of integrated systems with both the flexibility and resources required to respond to individuals in a timely fashion.

As a society, we must be prepared to actively support and finance early intervention strategies for youth; a judicial process with options to ensure that incarceration is a last resort; a community mental-health system that keeps the ill out of jail; a prison service that addresses individual offenders’ problems rather than acting as a human warehouse; and conditional-release programming that supports timely, safe community reintegration.

Yet, the BC government attached too little importance to early intervention strategies. Programs to improve youthful behaviour typically begin in schools but the ability to deal with troubled children has been debased by inadequate school funding.

Even under the NDP government, school boards remain under intense financial pressures. If troubled 10-year-olds are not helped, they will be troubled young adults in a decade.

But, the highest numbers of BC drug deaths are among people 30 to 60. Obviously, this is a multifactorial social disorder, but probably related partially to growing economic inequality and unstable job opportunities for individuals.


Accessibility of illicit drugs is another factor and we know that is facilitated by this province’s gang culture.  Again, that’s another complex problem, but we surmise it’s been made worse by money laundering conducted too easily in this province.

Perhaps the main cause of rising death rates results from today’s street drugs being more dangerous than before. Hakique Virani, one of Canada’s most experienced opioid experts, offers an explanation:

…bootlegging fentanyl is really cheap and when you combine an opioid with a stimulant, it creates a special kind of synergistic euphoria. It’s called speed-balling. It might help return business because mixing drugs with opioids can cause stronger physical dependence and withdrawal. But it can also increase the risk of death when users misjudge the high when using an upper and downer at the same time.

Governments are trying to address the illegal drug trade but decades of failure suggest we need more radical solutions. Health problems cannot be solved in courts and prisons.

Harm reduction specialists have ideas for improvement but the experts are restrained by legalisms imposed by bureaucrats. Dr. Mark Tyndall, executive director of the BC Centre for Disease Control suggested one key action when he told the Georgia Straight’s Travis Lupick:

People need access to safer drugs.

Sadly, this may be an insoluble problem that will continue to affect families from all walks of life.

Categories: Health

8 replies »

  1. First we had 16 years of the B.C. Lieberals not caring. Alberta at least banned pill presses, but not Christy clark and her B.C. Lieberals.

    The Gang Unit doesn’t seem up to the task.

    Police, i.e. Surrey have know for years where the fent. was being sold and nothing was done about it.

    The Port Police were disbanded back in the day and the civic police departments aren’t up to the task, so all that fent. coming into Canada from China, well just keeps coming. A little more work might be done to arrest those from China who supply Canada. If China won’t extradite them, wait for them to go through an airport some where else in the world.

    The police have never gone after the real organizers of this business. Oh, the odd gang leader went to jail, but its the people further up the food chain, like the people the gang leaders buy from and/or report to or do business with.

    NO BODY CARES, that is the biggest problem in this province. Yes, the death rate is high, but it still isn’t high enough that people actually pay attention because it hasn’t happened in their family.

    The age of the people dying 30 to 60 and the majority male, at home, speaks volumes about our lack of mental health and the shortage of G.P.s./family doctors. I’d be really curious how many of the 30 to 60 year old men had family doctors, who they could talk to, be referred by to mental health clinic, shrinks, etc. Many of them go to work, go home. A walk in clinic if they feel unwell.

    Our society has changed and many of those dying haven’t adjusted. Our society has become detached from other humans, for men even more so than women.

    Society in our province lacks hope for something better in life, for a lot of people. When we left school in the 1960s and entered the job market or furthered our education, we had hope for a better life. today, not so much and much has become stagnant, especially wages. Now its just survival for many. That makes a “trip” via drugs so much more appealing and for many it may even be a lot cheaper than getting drunk.

    Sending people to jail will not solve the problem, unless it is those who do the actually importing and the ring leaders. Those who import Fent. ought to be charged with attempted murder and/or murder.

    Communities aren’t close anymore. Families aren’t close anymore. People live in one area, work in another. Travel time alone makes things difficult for people to interact.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Marc, you really don’t get it. neither man is “fiddling”. How would you deal with this crisis. Remember it started during the reign of the B.C. Lieberals who did nothing. We didn’t even have enough hospitals in this province when they finally left office. Families didn’t have G.P.s and you can bet those men who died alone at home didn’t have G.Ps. either. What Horgan has done is announced 4 new hospitals and clinics for those without family doctors.

    Trudeau can’t change the laws over night. Then there is the no small problem of if the laws were changed, how would it be done. Neither option is free. enforcing tougher laws, need more police, judges, court officers, jails, doctors, etc. If we were to legalize it all and provide treatment there would be the cost again and treatment, really good treatment would be very expensive. We don’t have the health care workers, shrinks, etc.

    Now if either of these two politicians came up with a plan and told everyone your taxes will also go up $200 a year, you could hear the shouting all the way to the moon space station. People don’t want to spend money on drug addicts. They don’t care and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t put up extra money in the way of taxes either. The country is also very divided on the issue. Some want tougher laws, until its one of theirs going to jail for 10 years or mandatory treatment–violation of human rights.

    We can’t even get people to agree about housing the homeless, who are in large part also drug addicted. They’re not wanted in this and that neighbourhood. The list goes on. So please do explain how Trudeau and Horgan are playing their fiddles while B.C. residents die.

    really in the grand scheme of things its not that many, 754 up on the chart. For any government to have consenses on a plan, you’d actually need several thousand dying in the province and it would have to be contagious. Sort of like the AIDS epidemic once the “straights” figured out they too could get the disease. Until then not many cared. it was a “gay’ disease. This drug crisis is no different. If its not effecting almost every one, not many one care.


  3. Seems to me its obvious that what society has tried so far hasn’t worked. I have no idea how this tragedy will end, but my best guess is that eventually legalization and treatment as a health issue will improve the situation. It won’t be without its problems and too many will still die, but for my part I’d like to see it tried with some priority.

    It used to be that drug addiction was the ticket to a slow death. Fentanyl shortens the ride.


  4. Fentynal.

    A drug predominantly supplied by China.
    Canada has repeatedly requested China stop the illegal production of millions of doses of “Elephant Tranquilizer”…….to no avail…….

    Time to stop shipping raw goods to China ?
    Time to start shipping fentynal back to China via courier?

    Face it.
    We’re in a low level, undeclared war with a communist country that bullies, threatens and now, apparently, murders people in our country with impunity.

    Time to take the gloves off and deal with the problem, because , as Neville Chamberland found out,….appeasement and “peace in our time” aint workin’ ……..


  5. The corrupt BC Lib leadership from justice and into the premiers office turned a willful blind eye to everything that has caused the mess we have today from real estate affordability to the drug crisis.


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