With little hope fentanyl will go away, experts believe the province-wide expansion of harm-reduction services such as supervised consumption sites, the provision of clean, pharmaceutical-grade drugs to some users and an end to prohibition may be the only ways out of this crisis.
Russell Cooper picked up a saying at Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
“Jails, institutions or death,” recalls the 54-year-old. “That’s what addicts got to look forward to, that live on the street.”
Cooper is certain he’d be dead, had it not been for a radical intervention five years ago.
During a seven-year stint in prison for a bank robbery he became addicted to heroin. Upon his release, he was homeless and selling the drug in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to feed his own addiction, which had a “big appetite,” he said.
He wanted to quit. Recovery homes, Narcotics Anonymous and methadone didn’t work for him.
But in 2011, while living in a shelter, Cooper heard of a list.