British Columbia·Video

Dozens of Vancouver overdoses, as 24-hour supervised site opens

Dozens of overdoses were reported in Vancouver Wednesday, as Insite opened its doors 24 hours a day to try to stem the tide of drug deaths.

Supervised injection site opens doors 24 hours a day to stem overdoses blamed on 'cheque effect'

Dozens of Vancouver overdoses, as 24-hour supervised site opens 1:32

Tom Gordon is not one of the dozens of people who have overdosed in Vancouver over the past 24 hours, but he's no stranger to the experience.

Gordon said he survived a three-day coma after a cocaine and Fentanyl overdose last April.

The addict — who joked about having cocaine for breakfast — is convinced opening the supervised injection site 24 hours a day when social assistance cheques are delivered will save lives.

That same site alone saw 14 overdoses in the past day — double the usual number.

"They just started — I'm sure it will be a rousing success," said Gordon, an Insite regular who said he's been there more than "9983 times."

The 24-hour pilot project is set to run for six months.

The inaugural day of the opening was busy. Firefighters and paramedics scrambled to deal with a glut of calls in the wake of Wednesday cheque deliveries, known to fuel drug deaths.

Insite manager Patrick Beattie said addicts are like everybody else, they spend money when it comes in. (CBC)

"It's kind of like anyone else. You get a paycheque and there is a temptation to spend it quickly," said Insite manager Patrick Beattie.

It's unclear if any of the overdoses reported yesterday and overnight were fatal.

Deaths are known to spike — up to 40 per cent more than usual — when social assistance cheques are delivered,  according to a study done at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control  of "the cheque effect" which looked of coroner's data between the period of 2009 to 2013.

On an average day in Vancouver health officials told CBC they see three overdoses. 

Yesterday's total of 14 was double the average number of incidents they see on social assistance cheque days, according to Vancouver Coastal Health authorities.

Insite, a Vancouver supervised injection site, was busy yesterday as a pilot project kicked off, opening the help centre 24 hours a day. (CBC)

Vancouver is applying for five more supervised sites to help keep people safe and give them a place to find help and escape the stigma of addiction, a medical condition often seen as needing punishment.

"That's great news — excellent," said Michael Yam, a drug user who frequents the supervised injection site and often gets help from the nurse with the needle, plus first aid treatment for cuts and bruises.

Yam said he heads to Insite first when he gets his social assistance cheque, then after one shot, goes shopping for groceries.

"They take really good care of us," he said, lauding Insite for handing out Naloxone kits to users so they can help others who overdose.

Insite is one of only two legal supervised injection sites in the country, both of which are in Vancouver. (Radio-Canada)

With files from Sam Garvey, Natalie Clancy