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Nine dead in Vancouver in 24 hours from fentanyl opioid overdose

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Nine people died from fentanyl opioid overdoses in the Canadian city of Vancouver in just the past 24 hours, Mayor Gregor Robertson said, Friday

The spike in in drug-related  deaths comes as Canada much like the United States, has been struggling to contain an overdose crisis that claimed 2,000 lives last year, with even more expected in 2016.

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Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson

Vancouver city mayor, Gregor Robertson addressing a press conference, Friday, lauded existing harm reduction services such as drug consumption rooms in the city, but said more treatment options are urgently needed. He was flanked by the city’s police chief and other emergency officials, as he told the assembled media:

“It’s desperate times in Vancouver and it’s hard to see any silver lining right now when we haven’t hit rock bottom,” he said, warning of more overdoses to come.
Delving into an endemic issue into which the government has poured tens of millions of dollars into bolstering public health emergency responses, with little effect, Robinson said: “Can you imagine nine people dying from another cause in one day in our city?”
Police Chief Adam Palmer in his address called for more help for addicts.
Across the border, the United States has also seen a sudden spike in fentanyl-related deaths, including the apparent overdose of the pop star Prince in April.
Vancouver has seen an average of 15 overdoses a month and police are currently investigating 160 fatalities, Palmer said.
The city coroner’s office said morgues have reached capacity.

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Canada Place, Vancouver

Most of the deaths occurred in the gritty Downtown Eastside neighborhood, where an open drug market and extreme poverty persist despite decades of interventions.
As the crisis snowballed, the city council approved a 0.5 percent property tax hike this week to help stem the number of overdoses.
The funds are to go to support frontline emergency workers, shelters and outreach centres.

Meanwhile, the federal government this week removed hurdles to opening new drug consumption rooms – as demand skyrocketed – and expanded its fight against narcotics trafficking at the border.
Its revamp of drug laws is expected to pave the way for at least nine new drug consumption sites – known in Canada as “supervised injection sites” – across the nation, and more customs searches for fentanyl.
The first North American consumption rooms were established the only facility on the continent where addicts can receive medical supervision as they inject heroine illegally bought on the street.
The clinic was established in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 2003 under a special exemption from federal drug possession and trafficking laws.
Ottawa also recently restricted six chemicals used to make fentanyl and partnered with China to stem its flow into the country from abroad.
Highly potent and addictive, the analgesic fentanyl is estimated to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine. The related drug carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
Two milligrams of pure fentanyl, the size of about four grains of salt, is enough to kill an average-size adult.

Pills seized from the home of singer Prince contained the dangerously powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl but were mislabelled

Fentanyl is an extremely strong painkiller, prescribed for severe chronic pain, or breakthrough pain which doesn’t respond to regular painkillers.
It is an opioid painkiller which means it works by mimicking the body’s natural painkillers, called endorphins, which block pain messages to the brain.
It can cause dangerous side effects, including severe breathing problems. The risk of harm is higher if the wrong dose or strength is used.
In April, the late  singer Prince died of an accidental overdose of the dangerously powerful synthetic drug.

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