Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy. (Black Press files)

B.C. launches new drug-checking program, expands fentanyl testing

The program includes new machinery that tests illicit drugs, as well as fentanyl testing strips

With no end to the overdose crisis in sight, B.C. has launched a new first-of-its-kind drug-checking service in Vancouver, and is expanding the supply of more simple prevention measures across B.C.

The pilot program includes the implementation of a new Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer machine in Vancouver, which tests drugs for deadly opioids and contaminants within minutes. The machine will be used as a year-long pilot project at two supervised consumption sites in Vancouver.

READ MORE: September least deadly month for drug overdose this year: coroner

READ MORE: Fentanyl-linked overdose deaths soar in B.C.

Researchers at the BC Centre on Substance Use will evaluate how people use the new service, and whether it connects them to substance use treatment and reduces the risk of overdose.

Fentanyl test strips will also be made available at all supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites in B.C., including in Surrey, Kelowna, Kamloops and Victoria.

During an announcement in Vancouver Friday, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said drug checking is an integral piece to preventing overdoses.

“This information can save a person’s life,” she said.

More than 1,100 British Columbians have died by an overdose in the first nine months of 2017.

The stark death toll this year is expected to double the number of lives lost last year, with a growing percentage of fentanyl being detected as the cause of the fatalities.

Overdose deaths by city

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