Back when I first kicked junk, in 2010 nobody knew what hydromorphone or fentanyl even were. People would just look at me confused. “Its like morphine but stronger.” I’d tell them. Back then I was almost exclusively snorting hydromorphone (I had a good source). Most everyone else was into oxy back then. They introduced Oxy Neo as an abuse-proof replacement for oxycontin tabs. While there are ways to prepare Oxy Neo for injection they are quite complicated and take a long time. Some, especially the First Nations worried that entire communities would go into withdrawal at once.
Cops want to stop junkies but junkies want to shoot up more. They have no limits, don’t give a fuck about safety and were dead set on getting their fix. Then came the old standard to save the day-heroin. It was and is cheaper than pills. The doctors stopped prescribing oxy due to the stigma around the name it and needed a replacement other than morphine. They found this in Dilaudid, or hydromorphone, a drug 5 times the potency of heroin, or fentanyl patches which is 100 times the strength.
Now its 2017 and people are dropping like flies. I always preferred hydromorphone because unlike H which is just a powder, hydromorphone came in little balls that were supposedly abuse proof. 30 seconds with a mortar and pestle beg to differ, however the point is that these little balls are near-impossible to tamper with or replicate without a lab. Lacing them with fentanyl would be more trouble than it was worth. Not so for powdered heroin or easily pressed oxycodone tablets. They started showing up in overdose deaths all over North America. Fentanyl is cheaper to produce than heroin, easier to smuggle and can be made in a laboratory.
By the time I stopped shooting up fentanyl had all but replaced heroin in some places. It was even popping up in cocaine, a stimulant. Even worse were the reports of carfentanil being used as a cut, a thousand times stronger than morphine it was never used by humans until recently. Prior to that it was used for tranquilizing elephants. Shortly before stopping I was sold fentanyl-laced fake oxycontin as well as straight fentanyl. Even snorting a bit of it put me on the nod and I was seeing triple. Lucky for me I didn’t OD and voluntarily signed up for a suboxone program. I didn’t want to go down with the ship.
This isn’t about morals or strength of character-anyone can be an addict. I go to the clinic and see people older, younger, in suits and in construction boots, new mothers with babies. All levels of society, every race. Addiction affects us all. Now more than ever it is clear that we need to treat this epidemic as the health crisis it is, and stop placing blame on addicts. There should be more funding for education and expansion of clinics specializing in addiction treatment and a much expanded needle exchange system. People need to be aware of the other options available to them, such as methadone or suboxone, and a heroin maintenance program should be established as well as safe injection zones. These are proven methods and not only will they reduce ODs but they’ll lower the amount of blood borne diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis C.
Finally and most importantly opioid addicts, as well as their friends and family should always carry or have easy access to Naloxone. A single dose of naloxone will completely reverse an opioid overdose, even fentanyl. You can get kits at your local pharmacy at no cost so there really isn’t any reason not to have it around.
–Jack Blare, 2017