For the first time, Canadian authorities are permitting people to consume drugs orally and nasally in drug consumption rooms, as the country’s overdose crisis escalates.

On June 27, Health Canada – the federal department that oversees public health – granted permission to two drug consumption rooms (DCRs) to allow people to use drugs orally and nasally. The facilities - SafePoint and Quibble Creek Sobering and Assessment Centre – are in Surrey, British Columbia (BC). This marks the first instance of a state approving the oral and nasal consumption - such as swallowing or snorting - of drugs in a DCR outside of Europe.

In these DCRs, people are provided with sterile equipment and individual spaces to use drugs under the supervision of medical professionals equipped with naloxone - the medication used to reverse opioid overdoses. Some Canadian DCRs also provide additional services such as counselling, or places where people may stay after consuming drugs. With the formal approval from Health Canada, people may use these facilities without facing legal consequences for possessing or trafficking of illegal substances.

The two Surrey facilities both opened in June 2017, however their application to allow nasal and oral use of drugs was not granted immediately. Thus, they began exclusively as injection sites.

“About 1,000 people have used SafePoint since it opened on June 8, and 19 of them have overdosed, requiring staff to use the overdose-reversing drug naloxone,” according to Dr. Victoria Lee who serves as the chief medical health officer for the regional healthcare authority funding these sites.

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Thumbnail: CC drug pills