“HEROIN FOR ADDICTS”
PRODUCER/WRITER: CLAUDE ADAMS
REPORTER: CAROLYN JARVIS
AIRED: NOV. 22, 2014
AIRED: NOV. 22, 2014
ON THE STREET, IT’S KNOWN AS SMACK, SKAG OR SIMPLY JUNK-- BUT MOST JUST KNOW IT AS ‘HEROIN’ – A DRUG THAT’S SO ADDICTIVE – ONCE YOU’RE HOOKED - GETTING OFF CAN BE NEAR IMPOSSIBLE. THAT’S WHY SOME DOCTORS SAY – WHEN NOTHING ELSE WORKS – WE SHOULD BE PRESCRIBING HARDCORE ADDICTS – THE VERY DRUG THEY’RE HOOKED ON – HEROIN. IT MIGHT SEEM CRAZY– BUT IT WORKS IN EUROPE. AND FOR THE FIRST TIME, IT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN IN CANADA… EVEN THOUGH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS FIGHTING IT ALL THE WAY. AND A WARNING – SOME OF THE IMAGES YOU’RE ABOUT TO SEE MAY BE DISTURBING.
IT’S MORNING IN VANCOUVER’S DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE, AND KEVIN AND A FRIEND ARE COOKING UP THEIR FIRST INJECTION.
NADINE “We should be using a filter, but I’m too lazy sometimes, just wanna get it in me quick.”
THE RITUAL OF THE FIX REQUIRES A FEW SIMPLE TOOLS, A TENTH OF A GRAM OF POWDER . . . AND THE NEED THAT NEVER GOES AWAY.
NADINE: , there’s no better feeling. It’s warm . . . “
KEVIN:“It’s like Grandma giving you a big warm hug and never letting you go.”
A ROCK OF HEROIN, WORTH $70 ON THE STREET, PRECISELY MEASURED, IS JUST ENOUGH FOR ONE DAY’S ESCAPE.
NADINE: “If I could feel like that for 24-7 I’d be in my glory for sure.”
KEVIN HAS USED UP MOST OF HIS VEINS. SOMETIMES, HE’LL INJECT IN HIS FOOT.
BUT TODAY’S HE’S MUSCLING IT, IN WHAT’S LEFT OF HIS ARM AFTER A CAR CRASH.
KEVIN: “That’s called an intramuscular shot . . . instead of an IV shot, because my veins are done”
HE HAS ABOUT THREE MINUTES BEFORE THE RUSH BEGINS—TIME ENOUGH TO CLEAN UP.
KEVIN: “That’s my sharp box. I’ve emptied it once this year and it’s half full again.”
SOON KEVIN SLIPS INTO A CHEMICAL CALM AND FORGETS WE ARE THERE.
THE ESCAPE, HOWEVER, IS BRIEF; IN A FEW HOURS, THE CYCLE WILL BEGIN ALL OVER AGAIN.
IT’S CALLED LIFE AT THE END OF THE NEEDLE--SQUALID AND DANGEROUS.
BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.
“HEY Darryl . . good, how are you? “
BRENT OLSON NEEDS HIS DAILY INJECTIONS TOO, BUT ALL “HE” HAS TO DO IS VISIT THIS CLINIC THREE TIMES A DAY . . . THERE’S NO COST, NO STRESS.
BRENT: It has saved my life up to this point. CUT I can’t guarantee that...that this drug won’t destroy or kill my life. All I can say today is that it’s helped keep me alive.
CAROLYN: HOW DID IT SAVE YOUR LIFE?
BRENT: Well (CUT) getting me to appointments, the doctors, the nurses, the staff, everything. Without them I don’t think I’d be sitting here right now. I’d be in jail.
Or I’d be dead from doing street drugs, street heroin.
BRENT IS ONE OF 120 ADDICTS WHOSE DOCTORS SAY THEY DON’T RESPOND TO THE TRADITIONAL TREATMENT.
SO NEXT WEEK. THE FIRST GROUP OF ADDICTS WILL BEGIN TAKING HEROIN FOR THEIR ADDICTION.
UNTIL THEN, BRENT AND OTHERS ARE USING A SUBSTITUTE DRUG.
“Thanks very much Darryl
WHEN THEY SWITCH TO HEROIN, THAT FIRST GROUP WILL MAKE MEDICAL HISTORY—THE DRUG HAS “NEVER” BEFORE BEEN ISSUED OUTSIDE A CLINICAL TRIAL IN NORTH AMERICA
MACDONALD: this is a superior treatment
DR. SCOTT MACDONALD IS ONE OF THE DOCTORS WHO WILL PRESCRIBE THE HEROIN. HE SAYS IT’S THE LAST RESORT FOR HIS PATIENTS
MACDONALD: They had tried and treatment had not worked for them 11 times.
CAROLYN: WHAT SORT OF TREATMENT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
MACDONALD: We're talking about attempts at methadone, detox, other treatments including residential treatment.
SU “i’ll get you to sign that . . .
MACDONALD WORKS FOR PROVIDENCE HEALTH CARE, A CATHOLIC SOCIETY THAT’S PAYING FOR THE FIRST SHIPMENT OF HEROIN.
IT SAYS THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF THE PRESCRIPTION HEROIN PROGRAM ARE SUBSTANTIAL. AND THEY HAVE NUMBERS TO BACK IT UP.
PROVIDENCE CALCULATES IT COSTS $27,000 A YEAR TO KEEP ONE ADDICT IN A PRESCRIPTION HEROIN PROGRAM.
GRAPHIC: TOP LINE --$27,000 BOTTOM LINE-- PRESCRIPTION HEROIN
BUT ON THE STREET, THAT ADDICT COSTS SOCIETY MORE THAN $45,000 IN CRIME AND EMERGENCY CARE.
GRAPHIC: TOP LINE--$45,000 BOTTOM LINE—CRIME & CARE
THAT’S A SAVING OF AT LEAST $18,000 PER ADDICT, PER YEAR.
GRAPHIC: TOP LINE--$18,000 BOTTOM LINE--SAVING
APPLIED TO ALL HARDCORE HEROIN ADDICTS IN CANADA, THE SAVING TO TAXPAYERS COULD BE AS MUCH AS $150 MILLION A YEAR—ENOUGH TO PAY FOR FIFTEEN HUNDRED NEW AMBULANCES.
GRAPHIC: TOP LINE -- $150,000,000 BOTTOM LINE -- 1,500 NEW AMBULANCES
BRENT: My first joint was at 19 years old. Cocaine my mid 20s. And then heroin in my mid 30s.
BRENT HIT ROCK BOTTOM AFTER A PROMISING HOCKEY CAREER WAS CUT SHORT BY INJURY. SOON HE WAS SHOOTING UP EVERY DAY.
CAROLYN: WHAT WAS YOUR LIFE LIKE?
BRENT: I was stealing every day to make my 20, 30 bucks I’d have to make just to feel normal.
CAROLYN: STEALING WHAT?
BRENT: Anything I could get out of the store without getting caught
CAROLYN: FEEDING YOUR ADDICTION.
BRENT: Feeding my addiction.
CAROLYN: AT ONE POINT WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD HAVE DONE FOR HEROIN?
WHAT’S THE WORST THING?
BRENT: Steal from my mother. Ok we’re done. That’s it.
THERE’S THE SHAME AND THERE’S THE CRIME . . AND THERE’S ALSO THE PERVASIVE FEAR OF WHAT STREET HEROIN CAN DO.
SCOTT MACDONALD: You never know what you're receiving in illicit heroin. (CUT) it can be adulterated with other compounds, it can be dirty and unclean. (CUT) we regularly have overdoses here in Vancouver because of those substituted compounds.
SURE ENOUGH, ONLY DAYS AFTER THAT INTERVIEW—A FLURRY OF OVERDOSES IN VANCOUVER, AND AT LEAST ONE DEATH THAT COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED.
“we advocate for the human rights of people who use opiates.”
ADDICTS SAY FREEDOM FROM FEAR IS ONE OF THOSE RIGHTS—A THEME YOU HEAR OVER AND OVER AGAIN AT WEEKLY MEETINGS OF PEOPLE WAITING FOR THE PHARMACEUTICAL HEROIN.
THEY ALLOWED 16X9 TO FILM, ALTHOUGH MOST DIDN’T WANT THEIR FACES SHOWN.
Chyron NATIVE WOMAN: If you know anybody who smokes heroin, be very very careful of that fentanyl stuff. It burns your lungs out. My son died two weeks ago because of it
ONE MORE REASON THESE ADDICTS ARE SO IMPATIENT FOR THE PHARMACEUTICAL HEROIN INJECTIONS TO BEGIN.
GREG: we haven’t started it yet; it keeps getting pushed back . . . it was October, it’s October now, and then it went to November and then December
BUT IF THE HARPER GOVERNMENT HAD ITS WAY, THE INJECTIONS THEY’RE WAITING FOR, WOULD NEVER START AT ALL.
END OF PART ONE
DEAN“C’mon guys , everybody’s gonna get in, so let’s not push the guy in the wheelchair, okay?”
THEY CALL DEAN WILSON THE MAYOR OF THE DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE
DEAN: This is the epicentre right here of probably the open drug market.
A ONE-TIME HEROIN USER WHO NOW SPENDS HIS DAYS HELPING OTHER ADDICTS.
DEAN: what we try to do is to keep people healthy long enough and live long enough to make the right decisions.
VANCOUVER ALREADY GETS INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION FOR ITS PROGRESSIVE APPROACH TO DRUG ADDICTION.
THERE’S THE CONTROVERSIAL SAFE-INJECTION SITE CALLED INSITE, WHICH WON THE RIGHT TO CONTINUE OPERATING AFTER A LEGAL FIGHT WITH OTTAWA.
SOUND UP—(addict getting gear at needle depot window—wide shot and then go in close)
KEVIN: “Hey what do you need. Rigs and water. Here you go.”
(then cut to Kirk’s closeup of Safe Hit Kit)
ADDICTS ALSO HAVE 24-HOUR ACCESS TO FREE INJECTION SUPPLIES—INCLUDING THE SO-CALLED “SAFE HIT KIT”—SYRINGE, NEEDLES, TOURNIQUET (TOUR-ne-ket), COOKER, AND STERILE WATER.
ADVOCATES SAY PRESCRIBING SOME ADDICTS HEROIN IS THE NEXT NATURAL STEP.
DEAN: it's a matter of trying to get everybody into our way of thinking I guess.
BUT DEAN’S WAY OF THINKING--ABOUT HEROIN TREATMENT—HAS SET OFF ALARM BELLS IN OTTAWA.
HEALTH MINISTER RONA AMBROSE, FOR ONE, IS DEAD SET AGAINST THE IDEA OF GIVING HEROIN TO HARDCORE ADDICTS.
HERE IS AMBROSE, LAST YEAR.
AMBROSE: “The prime minister and I do not believe that we are serving the best interests of those addicted to drugs and those who need our help the most by giving them the very drugs they are addicted to.”
SO AMBROSE PLAYED THE SPOILER. UNTIL A YEAR AGO, HEALTH CANADA ALLOWED DOCTORS TO PRESCRIBE HEROIN TO CERTAIN PATIENTS.
BUT IN OCTOBER, 2013, AMBROSE CHANGED THE RULES, AND BANNED THE PRESCRIBING OF DRUGS SUCH AS HEROIN AND COCAINE.
AND THAT INFURIATES ADDICTS LIKE BRENT OLSON.
BRENT: Have you ever had anybody in your family addicted to heroin?
BRENT: . . what if treatment doesn’t work for them? Then where do they stand? What would you say to them now, Mr. Politician?
CAROLYN: SO THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE LAST LINE OF DEFENCE
DEAN: This is our last line of defence.
CAROLN: AND IF WE DIDN'T USE THAT LAST LINE OF DEFENCE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN?
DEAN: You are going to have addicts who would steal rob pass disease fuel the prostitution until the day they die...
AND THE B.C, SUPREME COURT AGREED. LAST MAY A JUDGE RULED THAT A GROUP OF ADDICTS SHOULD GET TEMPORARY ACCESS TO THE DRUG. THE JUDGE SAID THAT “POTENTIAL HARMS . . . ARE GRAVE” IF THEY DIDN’T GET THE HEROIN THEY NEEDED
THAT OPENED THE WAY FOR 120 ADDICTS, INCLUDING BRENT, TO GET ON THE LIST FOR LEGAL HEROIN.
IS THIS LIFE AND DEATH DO YOU THINK FOR SOME PEOPLE?
Sure it is. Sure it is.
HAVE YOU SEEN PEOPLE DIE FROM HEROIN OVERDOSES?
I have had a couple of close friends in the last year die of heroin overdose.
BRENT WILL BE WATCHING CLOSELY WHEN THE WHOLE ISSUE IS REVISITED IN COURT NEXT YEAR--WITH LAWYERS ARGUING THAT HE AND OTHER ADDICTS SHOULD HAVE FULL ACCESS TO PRESCRIPTION HEROIN, UNDER THE CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS.
AMBROSE WOULDN’T TALK TO 16X9 ABOUT THIS STORY, BUT ONE OF HER STRONGEST SUPPORTERS DID.
“It’s always interesting coming back down here.”
MARSHALL SMITH IS A RECOVERED ADDICT WHO WORKS AT AN ADDICTION CENTRE ON VANCOUVER ISLAND.
AND HE REMEMBERS HIS YEARS IN THE ALLEYS.
I know what addiction is about…. I've been there.
When the pain of continuing begins to outweigh the pain of stopping, then recovery can start.
YOU MAKE IT SOUND LIKE IT WAS JUST A MATTER OF CHOICE
It was a matter of choice, (CUT) I was tired of being cold I was tired of being on the street, I was tired of being chased around by the police (CUT) And I was tired of getting high all the time.
SO MARSHALL LEFT THE ALLEYS, AND WENT INTO A TRADITIONAL RECOVERY PROGRAM—ONE DESIGNED TO WEAN ADDICTS OFF DRUGS.
HE SAYS THE ROUTE “HE” TOOK COULD HELP MOST ADDICTS.
MARSHALL They need to be removed from the environment where there is drug using going on constantly around them. [
It's very difficult, impossible almost for people (CUT) . . . to make rational decisions around their own healthcare while their brain is chemically hijacked by these chemicals.
CAROLYN: SO YOU'RE SAYING THERE IS BETTER TREATMENT OPTIONS OUT THERE OTHER THAN PRESCRIPTION HEROIN
MARSHALL Addiction is a highly treatable highly survivable brain disorder. People get clean and sober and enter recovery everyday in this country. By the thousands.
( a map of europe, highlighting the uk, denmark, germany, the netherlands and switzerland)
IN EUROPE, HOWEVER, PRESCRIPTION HEROIN “IS” THE NEW WAY. FIVE EUROPEAN COUNTRIES -- THE UK, DENMARK, GERMANY, THE NETHERLANDS AND SWITZERLAND--NOW HAVE HEROIN PROGRAMS IN PLACE.
IN THE MID 1990S, SCENES LIKE THIS SHOCKED THE SWISS PUBLIC, AND THE GOVERNMENT SAID “ENOUGH”
LAST YEAR THE SWISS PROGRAM TREATED 1,600 ADDICTS IN 22 CLINICS, INCLUDING ONE IN A PRISON.
DOCTORS REPORT A SHARP DROP IN OVERDOSE DEATHS.
EIGHT CLINICAL STUDIES SUPPORT THE VIEW THAT PRESCRIPTION HEROIN IS THE BEST TREATMENT FOR THOSE 10 TO 15% OF HEROIN ADDICTS WHO AREN’T HELPED BY METHADONE OR OTHER TREATMENTS.
DEAN: And it’s just phenomenal how much they change once we get our hands on them.”
DEAN WILSON VISITED ONE OF THOSE EUROPEAN PROGRAMS AND CAME AWAY IMPRESSED.
DEAN: we found that in Germany when they did it, 40% of the people in the beginning on the heroin program were homeless. At the end of the program none were.**
In fact we had 25% actually find employment something that none of them had done any time in their life
DEAN: The transformation is amazing.
(brent with walker on street, looking for cans)
BUT BRENT OLSON IS NOT EXPECTING AN AMAZING TRANSFORMATION.
AFTER A LIFETIME OF ADDICTION, HE’S SO DAMAGED THAT EVEN COLLECTING EMPTY CANS IS A STRUGGLE.
ALL HE WANTS NOW IS THE PRESCRIPTION HE SAYS WILL MAKE HIS LIFE A LITTLE MORE BEARABLE.
CAROLYN: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU’VE APPLIED TO THE GOVERNMENT FOR ACCESS TO THE VERY DRUG THAT RUINED YOUR LIFE?
BRENT . . . that drug that ruined my life possibly saved my life right now.
CAROLYN: BUT IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE HEROIN YOU WOULDN’T BE HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE.
.........CAN YOU SEE THE LOGIC IN THAT BRENT?
DEAN: It’s a trade off I guess.
..................wanting to live and just wanting to exist.
CAROLYN: WHICH ONE DO YOU WANT MORE?
DEAN: Well, I want to live.