Harm-reduction agencies in Nova Scotia saw a surge in demand for treatment and clean drug supplies in 2017.
“I think that we’re seeing more young people accessing services,” said Cindy MacIssac, executive director at Direction 180, a community-based methadone clinic in Halifax.
“The number of needles that have been distributed have increased from this time last year to almost 50,000, and in terms of safer crack-use equipment, that has also risen by about 4,000.”
Dozens of Nova Scotians lost their lives in 2017 due to drug overdoses, a large majority of which were linked to opioid toxicity.
“Based on the data that we’ve received from the Medical Examiner’s Office, there’s been 45 reported and 12 probable [deaths],” MacIsaac said.
The overdose crisis hit Canada hard in 2017. From January to October alone, nearly 1,000 people died in British Columbia, according to the coroners office.
Those same statistics show 83 per cent of illicit drug overdose deaths were linked to fentanyl.
“Fentanyl’s certainly rattled thinkers and concerned folk, and I think generally people across the country are echoing concern,” MacIssac said.
“Prior to this, people would say, ‘Look, it’s just people who use drugs in the alleyway,’ but fentanyl has made its way into recreational users’ lives,” she explained. “So then all of a sudden there’s a scare, and the volume of people who have been lost due to the fentanyl crisis is such a tragedy.”
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This fall, after years of waiting lists and gaps in harm-reduction funding, the province acknowledged the growing concerns over opioid misuse this fall and announced an investment of $800,000 to improve access to opioid addiction treatment.
“It’s helped us to hire additional staff and it will give us new funding so that we can secure space so that we can continue to meet the demand for treatment,” MacIssac said.
MacIssac says bringing safe consumption sites to the province is another issue harm reduction agencies would like to see addressed in the new year.