Last weekend, I posted a piece from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, about the increasing drug deaths in Vancouver, especially from “the latest drug to hit the scene” – carfentanyl.
Today, Anna has sent me an update:
When I arrived at my music class on Monday, there was a small memorial out on the pavement in front of the community centre for a man who had died that morning from an overdose, while in the public toilets below.
There were candles, a teddy bear, several cards that people were signing and lots of cigarettes. Tobacco is a traditional offering for indigenous people.
Nearby a tall man, who said he was a friend of the deceased, was selling Tylenol 3s.
“T3s,” he was calling out quietly. “T3s,.. T3s…”
Other people walked past calling out a chorus of other drug names:
“Oxy, Oxy, Oxy,..”
A pile of empty pill bottles stood at the bottom of a column of the community centre, the names scratched out.
The soaring overdose deaths have been declared a public health crisis in British Columbia. Even though the Downtown Eastside is saturated with ambulances, the rates that people are overdosing keeps climbing.
And it is now happening not just among the regular addicts but among casual users of cocaine and heroin. A dead teenager was found in a suburban Starbucks washroom.
Staff at downtown hotels are overwhelmed by the deaths of their residents and emergency services are training because pure fentanyl is fatal to the touch.
At the weekend, I saw my nephew who works at a hotel downtown. I asked him how he has been affected and he said he has had to deal with three deaths recently. The latest was a 23 year woman old whom he injected with the antidote… but she was already dead and could not be revived.
Amazingly, the people on the streets have not lost their sense of humour.
You see people having a laugh, making jokes about their friends. On cheque day – the day when people get their benefit cheques – many are especially cheerful.
I heard a ragged couple – a man and woman about my age – walking nearby. They may have had a drink.
“Look at that guy,” said the man. “Do you think when I get old I’ll look like him?”
“You ALREADY look like him,” his wife replied immediately.
They are dicussing fentanyl on the radio now. A documentary film maker is talking about a film he shot about a fentanyl maker: a character called Beeker.
Beeker shows on film how he can procure fentanyl online from Asia in five minutes.
The film by Robert Osborne airs on CBC television tonight: Unstoppable: The Fentanyl Epidemic.
I should add that the people here are not just roaming the streets looking to buy elephant tranquilizer (and fentanyl).
Heroin, cocaine and amphetamines are being adulterated with carfentanyl and fentanyl so people don’t know they are ingesting it.