Fighting Fentanyl

Life of the Party feat. Narcan workshop brings important message about drug use to students

Jackson Snetsinger // Contributor

The fentanyl epidemic that is currently sweeping the streets and drug scenes of Vancouver has created a crisis not felt by the city since the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Fentanyl is becoming more prevalent – it’s getting cut into more drugs and its death count is rapidly rising. Approximately 1,420 individuals overdosed in Vancouver in 2017 alone, compared to the 922 people who overdosed the previous year.

The epidemic has reached the point where civil service workers can no longer keep up with the increasing numbers of overdoses. Much like the AIDS epidemic, these workers can’t control what people do in the privacy of their own homes. To counter the fentanyl epidemic, addicts are being encouraged to practice harm reduction, which allows drug users to engage in safe drug use.

Strategies taught in harm reduction courses include how to recognize an overdose, how to prevent it and how to be safe while using.

Insite and the Portland Hotel Society are strong leaders in the fight against fentanyl use and the problems of overdosing in Vancouver. Outside of their work in areas like the downtown Eastside, the Portland Hotel Society also works with university students to further educate the public on the effects of drug use and harm reduction skills. “We don’t want people doing drugs, but if they are doing it they might as well be educated and test them” said Perry Safari, the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) president and vice-president finance and services.

The CSU and Stacey Forrester of the Portland Hotel Society presented a work shop called Life of the Party feat. Narcan on Jan. 30, educating students about safe drug use strategies and valuable approaches to harm reduction. Training done by Life of the Party feat. Narcan is part of Capilano University’s Adulting Series. The program’s goal is to inform students about things in life that classes don’t cover, including tenant rights, self-defence, and necessities like health and dental plans. “We hold monthly workshops, and we want to repeat them to make sure [information] is not forgotten,” said Sarah Carrier, CSU services coordinator.

To some, encouraging harm reduction may seem like it’s promoting drug use, when in actuality it prevents it.

In 2001, Portugal decriminalised possession of all drugs, and since then new drug user rates have dropped by 10 per cent and overdose rates by 15 per cent. Canada isn’t decriminalizing the use of recreational drugs, but with the help of harm reduction strategies and properly educating adolescents, drug use rates have a greater potential of dropping. “We haven’t really talked about policies at the CSU,” said Safari. “We have had good feedback on the series, so we want to make it annual thing. However, the University doesn’t have any plans for harm reduction.”

Drug use is often a silent problem, and one that many people don’t admit to. There are options for students battling addiction that they’re not often familiar with, such as visiting Insite where they will be taught how to safely and properly administer drugs and also test for fentanyl.

Insite certainly isn’t for everyone, however. For more information, students are encouraged to log on to and learn how to practice harm reduction strategies, as well as gain background knowledge about the Portland Hotel Society. Students who use drugs often or recreationally are strongly encouraged to learn more about harm reduction and safe drug use practices.

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