Government fentanyl? Vancouver experiment aims to stop overdoses
So she started providing a substitute for illicit drugs, first Dilaudid, then fentanyl patches and now fentanyl capsules. His project buys the fentanyl from a pharmaceutical manufacturer and a local pharmacy prepares it with dextrose and caffeine as dabs. The pills are sold at $10 per dose, which is priced exactly at street level.
Dr. Sutherland writes a prescription for the drug and the patients buy it; if they cannot pay, the program covers the costs.
When nurses enroll new participants in the program, they increase the dose over the days to find exactly what patients need to replace what they use on the street. Participants use the drugs under supervision initially, to ensure they have the amount needed to avoid withdrawal (and no more, so there is no risk of them selling the excess in the street). Then they can take the drugs offsite for use.
The Opioid Crisis
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Chris has been using illicit drugs daily since he was a teenager. He receives 30,000 micrograms of fentanyl daily at the clinic. That’s far more than what would kill a non-user – a doctor would typically prescribe around 50 micrograms temporarily to manage the pain – but, after years of use, that’s what Chris needs to experience a rapid surge of pain. euphoria and prevent withdrawal. He said he hoped to return to work soon and then start shopping under the program, like he would frequent a liquor store.
Dr Sutherland expects patients like Chris to gradually reduce the amount they consume, as they don’t worry about how they will score the next hit to avoid the agony of withdrawal – being ‘drugged’ – from a distance.
Lisa James personifies the benefits expected from programs like this. Ms James, who is 53, spent 18 years addicted to heroin. For the first eight, each day began the same sinister cycle: she would go out in the morning and steal from stores, then pass the goods to her boyfriend, who sold them and used the money to buy heroin. He would bring her home, where she waited anxiously for him, already nauseous and nervous from the drug sickness.