British Columbia

Victoria drug users welcome supervised consumption plan

Two Victoria women who are longtime drug users talk about what safe consumption services would mean to them.

'When I have to use alone. It scares me,' 18-year-old says

Loney and Elizabeth, drug users in Victoria. (Deborah Wilson/CBC)

Island Health is expected to reveal plans today to establish the first supervised drug consumption services in Victoria.

It's an idea that's been talked about for more than a decade, but much more urgently in the past 12 months, as Victoria recorded the province's highest per capita rate of fatal overdoses.

Two women who are longtime drug users spoke with On the Island host Gregor Craigie about what safe consumption services would mean to them.

Loney, 36, and Elizabeth, 18, stayed at Victoria's tent city until it was shut down in August, then moved with dozens of other former campers to a new supported housing facility on Johnson Street. 

They spoke on condition that they be identified by their first names only.

What difference do you think it would make to have safe consumption sites in Victoria?

Elizabeth: I think it would help a lot of overdoses from happening. Well, not from happening, but it could save a lot of peoples' lives.

I've seen quite a few. I've had Narcan  [which reverses opioid overdoses] and given a person CPR, which has kind of been scary.

Loney: [In tent city] strangers from off the street … they bought their dope and they've got to go somewhere right now because they're dope sick right now.

Instead of going behind a building or behind a garbage can or in one of the outhouses, we had these tents available. They could go in there.

All the supplies were provided. There was somebody there with them so safety and concern were all taken care of.

The underlying factor of safety is on everybody's mind. Like, I just want to get high. I don't want to die.

Victoria's tent city was dismantled earlier this year. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Would you use a safe consumption site? 

Loney: Absolutely, I 'am' the safe consumption site. Anytime that anybody needs somewhere to go, I am one of the first ones to lead the way.

Elizabeth: Yes I would … I really dislike when I have to use alone. It scares me, just in case something does happen. I'm not ready to die yet.

When I get high, I like to be able to know that I'm safe and that I can actually relax and take a breath.

Are you worried when you get heroin that it might be laced with fentanyl?

Elizabeth:  I expect it to be, to be honest. So I prefer to take small [amounts] at a time and pace myself.

Loney: People have died from just smoking it. They go into a state of, we call it the funky chicken, they go into a seizure type area and then the colour of them they go grey, and then their lips turn blue, their breathing is either so slow or shallow. their body gets into such a relaxed state it's almost like they forget to breathe.

So CPR has to be initialized to them first and foremost and a lot of people don't have any first aid training. None of us do but we're all addicts so we take it upon ourselves.

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Island.

To hear the full interview go to Victoria users welcome supervised drug use service.