The results of a pilot project at Vancouver’s supervised injection facility Insite have found that when clients know their drugs contain fentanyl, they’re less likely to have an overdose.
In a release issued this week, Vancouver Coastal Health said that from July 2016 to March 2017 clients at Insite checked their drugs more than 1,000 times.
Overall, 79% of drugs checked were positive for fentanyl, including 83% of heroin samples, 82% of crystal meth, and 40% of cocaine.
Insite clients could check their substances prior to or after consumption, with 62% checking post-consumption.
Clients who checked prior to consumption, with a positive result, were 10 times more likely to reduce their dose and clients who reduced their dose were 25% less likely to overdose.
“When we launched this pilot we were hoping it would persuade people to use harm reduction strategies,” says Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, Medical Health Officer with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). “This is exactly what we are seeing, so we’re encouraged to know that empowering people with information about their risks is leading to safer choices.”
Clients use a test strip, a product originally developed to check urine, at their injection booth. The client dilutes their substance with a few drops of water and a positive or negative for fentanyl is revealed within seconds.
“We’d like to see more people check prior to their use so that we can determine whether this could be effective for people who don’t go to Insite or an overdose prevention site,” says Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer and the Vice President, Public Health for VCH.
“With the majority of overdose victims dying alone, if proven to work, drug checking could save lives.”
Insite, North America’s first legal supervised injection site, has been offering supervised injection services for people who use illicit drugs since 2003. Insite had an average of 440 injection room visits per day. No deaths have ever occurred at the facility.