September 8, 2017 10:17 am
Updated: September 8, 2017 12:47 pm

B.C.’s addictions minister wants to consider decriminalizing drugs

Federal Liberals from across the country - wrapped up their two-day caucus meeting in Kelowna - and today - one of the biggest crisis plaguing the Okanagan and all of BC - was brought up for debate. Top health officials in the province and at least one MP are advocating for drug decriminalization in wake of the Fentanyl crisis, but as Lauren Pullen reports that's not something we'll be seeing anytime soon.

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B.C.’s new addictions minister thinks the federal government needs to reconsider decriminalizing illicit drugs.

Judy Darcy says all options should be on the table in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

The number of people dying due to illicit drug use continues to rise across B.C.

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New statistics released by the BC Coroners Service shows fentanyl was found in 81 per cent of illicit drug overdose deaths in the province this year.

From January through July 2017, fentanyl was found in four of every five illicit drug overdose deaths. More specifically, 706 of the 876 drug deaths involved fentanyl; which is a 143 per cent increase over the same seven-month period in 2016.

“If this overdose crisis is not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is,” said Darcy on Thursday. “Not treating addiction the way we would any other chronic condition clearly is not working.”

However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his government would not consider legalizing harder drugs.

“There’s a lot of things we’ve done. But we are not looking at decriminalization or legalization of any other drugs other than what we are doing with marijuana,” Trudeau told Global BC’s Morning News in early August. “We are going to focus on getting the control and regulation of marijuana regime right. And that is quite a handful right now and we are not looking at any other steps.”

WATCH: Trudeau says his government is not considering decriminalization as a tool to combat the growing opioid crisis:

The number of deaths in B.C. from illicit drug use in 2017 is 876 so far, up from 482 at this time last year and is an increase of 82 per cent.

These numbers continue to follow a trend seen in a previous report released by the BC Coroners in May that showed there were 488 accidental drug overdose deaths in the province from January through April 2017.

Fentanyl overdoses have been steadily increasing in B.C. over the past five years.

The BC Coroners Service continues to stress the importance of harm-reduction measures that need to be taken when using illicit drugs. These include never using alone, having naloxone available and knowing the signs of an overdose.

— With files from Paula Baker, Andrew Russell and The Canadian Press

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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