Pandemic expected to reduce flow of illegal street drugs

Virus impacts street drugs

Health experts are warning that restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border due to COVID-19 could limit the illegal drug supply, leading to more adulterated and toxic substances on the street.

The situation poses a danger for people with addiction issues, who may have to find cheaper alternatives or be forced into withdrawal at a time when the province is trying to contain the spread of novel coronavirus, said Valorie Crooks, an SFU professor and health services expert. 

“It is going to create stress and anxiety,” she said. “We are going to see withdrawals. That is going to create demands on the health-care system at time when it is already taxed.”

She added that many people who are struggling with addiction issues have difficulty talking about it with their friends and family.

“It becomes increasingly difficult in this particular kind of climate,” she said.

Cpl. Michael McLaughlin of the Coquitlam RCMP said: “As time goes on during the crisis, the supply could become more limited for drugs that are traditionally imported, and that could impact the price on the street."

Last week, the province announced new clinical guidance designed to reduce the risks for people with substance abuse issues. The measures include supplying safe prescription alternatives via home delivery and allowing prescriptions to be issued through virtual visits.

Judy Darcy, B.C.’s minister of health and addictions, said the guidance reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission and ensures people with a history of substance use have safe access to drugs.

“We’re dealing with one public health emergency on top of another and the challenges are unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Darcy said at the time. “Physical distancing is not easy when you are living in poverty, visiting a clinic every day to get your medicine and relying on an unpredictable illegal drug supply.”

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