By Jordan Westfall and David Mendes
As 2018 comes to an end like the lives of thousands of our family members, friends and co-workers, it seems there may be hope in the fight against the overdose epidemic. Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has publicly stated that developing a "safer supply" of regulated opioid drugs is being actively reviewed with Canada's provincial and territorial governments.
What Dr. Tam is referring to leads us to something people who use drugs have been asking for for a long time — "safe supply." It means providing people using contaminated drugs with legal, pharmaceutical-grade alternatives that provide the euphoria that drug consumers seek when using heroin or fentanyl. It means providing people their substance of choice, giving a person back their autonomy and allowing them to use by their preferred method of administration. This eliminates the stigma and inherent dangers of being forced into the black market, and in many cases can produce a domino effect of personal growth and independence. This is an approach grounded firmly in the voices of people who use drugs that keeps their human rights of paramount interest.
This approach is not a treatment for people who use drugs, but a treatment for the toxicity of Canada's drug supply and a century of criminalization. This is harm reduction in its purest form, protection from the drug policy that is lowering life expectancy across Canada.
Safe supplymeans those in the position of making literal life and death decisions, politicians and bureaucrats alike, listen to what drug users need and act on it. It means not seeing us in dire need of rescue or receiving ineffectual treatment, but as humans being systemically poisoned to death at a rate of 11 each day.