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27 Mar 2017

Liberals to announce marijuana will be legal by July 1, 2018

Provinces will have right to decide how marijuana is distributed and sold, CBC News has learned

By David Cochrane, CBC News


The Liberal government will announce legislation next month that will legalize marijuana in Canada by July 1, 2018.

CBC News has learned that the legislation will be announced during the week of April 10 and will broadly follow the recommendation of a federally appointed task force that was chaired by former liberal Justice Minister Anne McLellan.

Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief who has been stickhandling the marijuana file for the government, briefed the Liberal caucus on the roll-out plan and the legislation during caucus meetings this weekend.

27 Feb 2017

Deal reduces price of life-saving hepatitis C drugs for Canadians

 Kelly Grant - The Globe and Mail 

Tens of thousands of Canadian patients with mild versions of chronic hepatitis C could soon receive public funding for medications that cure the infection now that the provinces have sealed a deal with three pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of the ultra-expensive drugs.

The pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA), which negotiates prices on behalf of the provincial and territorial public drug programs, announced on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with the makers of six breakthrough hepatitis C medications, including the best-known drugs in the class, Harvoni and Sovaldi.

Shortly after the pCPA confirmed the deal, the British Columbia government declared that its PharmaCare program would begin covering the drugs for patients with chronic hepatitis C, regardless of the type or severity, beginning in 2018.

06 Feb 2017

Prescription heroin program ready to rapidly expand

The Crosstown Clinic on Hastings Street offers free doses of heroin and hydromorphone

By Rafferty Baker, CBC News

Mark Schnell walks into the injection room at Providence Health Care's Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

With the help of a cane, he approaches a booth where he's given one of his three daily doses of injectable hydromorphone, an opioid used as a replacement for drugs like heroin.

The 49-year-old makes his way over to a steel counter in front of a mirror, where a nurse helps him wrap a piece of elastic around his upper arm. He struggles to find a vein in his left hand, then suddenly cries out in pain. Another nurse jumps in to help him.

"I hit a nerve. It was an electrical shock through my whole body," he later said. "I've never experienced anything like that." 

Schnell tries a vein in his other hand, then decides to inject the drug into his right shoulder

For nearly three decades, Schnell has used hard drugs. For most of that time he was into crack cocaine and crystal meth, but by the time he got into the program at Crosstown about four years ago, he was also dependent on heroin.

"Being in this program, the first thing I did ... I quit cocaine after 28 years," he said.

04 Feb 2017

What are some managed alcohol and other harm reduction initiatives in Canada?

  Emma Woolley - Canadian Observatory on Homelessness/Homeless Hub: York University


This question came from Ari F. via our latest website survey.

Harm reduction is quickly becoming more and more accepted in policy and practice in Canada. As it is an effective public health and engagement initiative with plenty of evidence behind most practices (Ball, 2007; Hunt et al., 2003; Wodak & McLeod, 2008), this isn’t surprising. Research has shown that as long as harm reduction interventions are effectively implemented and exist as part of a system of services, they are successful in their intended goals. Practices include distribution programs (of clean supplies), overdose prevention and education, social service referrals, advocacy and social action. Harm reduction values and principles speak to agency and respect, and are an important part of advocating for the rights of people who use drugs. Given the fact that people who use drugs also tend to experience social isolation and stigma, this element of harm reduction is very important.

31 Jan 2017

Illicit drug users and doctors who treat them push to end ‘stigmatizing’ language

 CAMILLE BAINS - The Canadian Press

Calling someone a junkie was once the norm, but many people who use illicit drugs and those who treat them say the word addict is just as stigmatizing.

At the Crosstown Clinic, which provides pharmaceutical heroin treatment for people hooked on the opioid, someone has crossed out “addicts” on a notice posted by a group called the Addicts Union and substituted “patients.”

Dr. Scott MacDonald, lead physician at Crosstown, said the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders no longer lists the term addict.

16 Jan 2017

How medical marijuana could help curb the opioid crisis

As the number of overdoses from fentanyl continues to rise across the country, the opioid crisis has emerged as one of Canada's most serious public health issues — and some researchers believe medical marijuana could help combat the problem.

People working in the field agree that solutions are needed now. Last year, the city of Vancouver alone reported more than 750 opioid-related deaths. And the crisis continues to spread. This week, officials in Toronto hosted a meeting to prepare for a potential epidemic of overdoses from fentanyl.

[Medical marijuana]

Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance argues medical marijuana could help curb the opioid crisis, both as an alternative source of pain treatment and as a tool for addicts who are trying to wean themselves off prescription pills. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

While it's not known precisely how many Canadians are addicted to opioids, prescriptions for the drugs have skyrocketed in recent years — up roughly 20% between 2010 and 2014. According to the Globe and Mail, Canadian doctors wrote 53 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in 2015.

10 Jan 2017

Hydromorphone has become the second-most deadly drug in Ontario, fresh data shows

 The prescription painkiller was responsible for 119 fatal overdoses in 2015, coroner's report found

By Natalie Nanowski, CBC News

Although fentanyl remains the leading cause of opioid death in Ontario, updated data shows that the prescription painkiller hydromorphone sits as the second-deadliest drug when it comes to fatal overdoses in the province. 

Hydromorphone caused 119 deaths in 2015, compared to fentanyl's 166, according to preliminary numbers from the chief coroner's office. Data for that year is about 95 per cent complete, while the early figures for 2016 will come trickling in partway through 2017.

When combined with alcohol, hydromorphone caused 37 fatalities in 2015 — the same number of people found to have overdosed on a combination of fentanyl and liquor.

Similar to heroin

Hydromorphone is similar to heroin and goes by the trade name Dilaudid. It's extremely addictive and used to treat moderate to severe pain. 

But unlike in eastern Canada where it's made headlines, the drug isn't getting the same level of media attention as fentanyl here, perhaps because it's neither as new nor as potent.

"Hydromorphone has been around for a while," Shaun Hopkins, the manager at Toronto Public Health's needle exchange program said.  "It's similar to heroin [and] if people don't have access to one opioid, they might switch to the other."

09 Jan 2017

Toronto’s plan to open supervised-injection sites stuck in limbo

Kelly Grant - The Globe and Mail

As Toronto prepares to respond to more overdoses caused by bootleg fentanyl, the city’s plan to open three supervised-injection sites remains stuck in limbo.

Six months have elapsed since councillors in Canada’s largest city voted in favour of adding the service to three health centres that already distribute clean drug paraphernalia and provide support to drug users.

But the city is still waiting for funding from the Ontario government and the go-ahead from Ottawa, which received Toronto’s completed application last month.

“We’re told it’s coming soon,” Toronto Councillor Joe Cressy said of formal approval from Health Canada. “But we need it now. We needed it yesterday.”

Supervised-injection sites allow users who bring their own drugs to inject or consume them in a sterile environment under the watchful eye of health-care workers. If clients overdose, workers are there to revive them.

17 Dec 2016
09 Dec 2016

Portugal: Fifteen years of decriminalised drug policy

 Portugal treats addicts as patients, not as criminals, after 15 years of decriminalised drug policy.

 Jurriaan van Eerten - Al Jazeera


Lisbon, Portugal - Under a flyover of concrete, alongside a road full of afternoon commuters, a group of people flock around a van. One of them, a woman in a colourful summer dress and a golden necklace, looks like she came to see a show at the nearby theatre. However, just like the man in his unwashed jeans in front of her, she is here for her daily dose of methadone. It will get her through the night.

"Drugs started when my father brought me to the south of Portugal, to the Algarve, where I met people who were in the scene," the woman tells Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.

"Life was glamorous in these days. Everything sparkled. My boyfriend was a dealer, and I started to push drugs for him, too. We made loads of money. Now he is out of my life, but the addiction has always stayed with me."

She drinks the methadone from a little paper cup and says she has to leave. She walks to the car parked on the pavement, where an obese man waits for her.

Another woman, a former sales agent named Veronica - who lost two of her front teeth during her years as an addict - comes over to the nurse to look up her dosage information in the system. Veronica began using heroin when she saw her boyfriend do it, wanting to understand what was so good about the drug that he could not stop taking.

The small paper cups are filled with methadone - a drug that takes away the withdrawal symptoms when addicts begin reducing their intake of heroin.

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