Sudbury drug report nearing final phase, health unit says

Public Health Sudbury and Districts is nearing the final phase of a major study into drug use in the city.

Data collected from 200 drug users, 2000 public surveys

Dr. Ariella Zbar is the associate medical officer of health for Public Health Sudbury and District. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

Public Health Sudbury and Districts is nearing the final phase of a major study into drug use in the city.

And once the data is analyzed, the numbers may show that Sudbury qualifies for a safe injection site.

Doctor Ariella Zbar, the principal investigator for the report on supervised consumption sites, said the research team has spoken with over 200 drug users since June, and compiled data on overdoses, along with HIV and Hepatitis C rates in the city. They have also collected over 2000 surveys from the public. 

A supervised consumption site is a broad, umbrella term for any supervised service for drug users. 

According to Zbar, once the data is compiled, and the community's needs are assessed, the team will be able to apply to the federal government for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

"We have to keep in mind that the reason why we're doing this study is there's evidence to support supervised consumption services," Zbar said. "And we need to make sure that that evidence would be applicable in Sudbury."

Zbar said the influx of heavy drugs, as well as the proliferation of opioids in Sudbury necessitated the study.

"Opioids continue to take lives, they continue to put people into hospital and to cause overdoses," Zbar said. "It's not just people who take opioids but taking other street drugs. We know that street drugs are not a regulated drug supply. So we end up in many different types of products."

"What we see that in addition to sharing needles and sharing other types of drug use equipment can result in blood borne infections, HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B."

We want to be able to treat individuals as any other human being- Dr. Ariella Zbar

But Zbar said one of the biggest challenges has been dealing with backlash from community members— many who do not want the sites, as well as confronting the public stigma surrounding drug users. 

"We've seen some pushback already from different individuals in the community, but we just know to be prepared for it," Zbar said. 

"The NIMBYs say 'well you know that's the person's choice in life. Why should we be enabling this?' But we want to be able to treat individuals as any other. As a human being, where they have the access to the care that they need, and they're treated as a person."

An unsanctioned overdose prevention site appeared in June, run by a group calling itself the Sudbury Temporary Overdose Prevention Society. (Kate Rutherford/CBC)

Zbar said that the stories they've heard from drug users during the research have provided insight into the daily lives and needs of drug users.

"We know from the people who actively experience it, or are in recovery or they still continue to use, it's extremely hard to get away from it," she said. 

"It is a fact of their lives and they deserve to be treated as human beings and get the care that they need."

The report into supervised consumption services is expected to be ready in the spring of 2020.



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