---Drug test on the horizon promises help in overdose epidemic
A new health innovation tool that can detect toxic components of street drugs that could lead to potentially fatal overdoses may be on the market within the next year.
DoseCheck is a small portable device that can be connected with an app on a smartphone to provide a breakdown of the contents and the amount of each component present in the drug. This can save many drug users from consuming toxic contaminants that can lead to overdoses and fatalities.
The Government of Canada reports the growing number of overdoses and deaths caused by opioids, including fentanyl, is a public health crisis in Canada.The government of Canada’s Public Health infobase reports that in 2020 there were 547 opioid toxicity deaths in Quebec. This number of deaths is up from 414 in 2019 and 208 in 2018.
“For us, this is very good news. We have been waiting for this for a long time. We were hoping that Public Health would progress faster in this area as we have been demanding this kind of technology for a while. It is the right of drug users to know what they are consuming,” said Chantal Montmorency, General Coordinator of the Association Québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de drogues (AQPSUD).
Canada has seen a dangerous increase in overdoses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Montmorency told the Aylmer Bulletin that, in Quebec, curfews restricted access to safe injection service and increased fear of arrest or police intervention, which led to drug users staying at home.This meant there was a higher risk of overdose.
Montmorency said that, in addition to new technologies, decriminalization, not just for drug users, but also for dealers, would help. Restricting access to drug dealers can lead to dangers for drug users, such as withdrawal.
DoseCheck was part of the outcomes of Health Canada's Drug Checking Technology Challenge and was co-developed by Dr. Dan Werb, the executive director of the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation in Toronto, and an epidemiologist and colleague of Dr. Drew Hall.
Drug checking is a prevention tool that can be used at safe injection sites (SIS). Dr. Werb hopes this technology can help improve services in rural and remote areas.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, you can access support by visiting www.drogue-aidereference.qc.ca or by calling Drugs: Help and Referral, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-800-265-2626,