Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, (left) pharmacist Jarred Aasen, Uvic biochemist Ian Garber, chemistry coop student Ashley Larnder and Agilent technologies representative Kelly Akers stand before the equipment that will be used in the drug checking pilot project (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

UVic partners with harm reduction groups to run a drug checking pilot project

The three-year pilot will allow people to test their drugs for fatal ingredients like fentanyl

The University of Victoria is partnering with local harm reduction organizations and the federal and provincial governments to create a drug checking pilot project.

In an announcement on Tuesday afternoon, UVic representatives said that a $1.7 million investment from Health Canada helped its chemistry and social studies departments to partner in the development of a drug checking system using specialized equipment. These tools can more efficiently test a drug sample to understand its components, and detect deadly substances like fentanyl.

ALSO READ: Opioid overdoses claimed more than 3,200 lives in first nine months of 2018

“This is a pressing issue that requires an interdisciplinary project to bring about meaningful, real life application and real life solutions,” said David Castle, vice president of research for UVic.

The project is being led by Bruce Wallace from the School of Social Work scientist from from UVic’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR), as well as UVic chemist Dennis Hore.

Previous to these devices fentanyl test strips were the only tool readily available to test drugs at harm reduction locations like STS Pharmacy. The strips were fast and simple to use, but not precise in their answers.

“Lots of what we test in heroine samples do contain fentanyl, but the strips only give a yes-no test so we have more complex technology to find out what’s in here,” said UVic chemistry coop student Ashley Larnder. “Through this we might find the sample also contains caffeine, a common cutting substance.”

ALSO READ: Victoria crowd rallies for action on overdose crisis

The devices being used include an infrared absorption spectroscopy, a Raman spectroscopy and gas chromatography-mass spectrometer. These devices use different techniques, including the use of light and gas, to separate components and compare it to a library database.

Each drug sample tested would run through all three devices, as some machines are better at detecting certain substances than others. In total, one sample would take about 15 minutes to test.

“Our country faces the most significant public health crisis in recent history. Over the past three years the opioid crisis has claimed the lives of 10,337 Canadians. Tragically, that number continues to rise each and every day,” said newly appointed federal Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

“While we can tackle substance use through treatment and harm reduction, we need new tools to tackle this issue. That’s where drug testing comes in. Drug testing allows people who use drugs to see what’s really in their drugs. It has the potential to save countless lives.”

ALSO READ: Victoria advocates demand a safe supply of opioids

Island Health was also a strong supporter of the research.

“We’re extremely excited to having something new to add to the repertoire,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer with Island Health. “The drug testing is something I would put on par with naloxone kits…This will give this individual additional knowledge to perhaps make better choices or at least informed choices.”

The portable testing devices will be available at SOLID Outreach located at 1139 Yates St. and AIDS Vancouver Island at 713 Johnson St. as well as at Lantern Services, formerly known as the STS Pain Pharmacy, at 820 Cormorant St. and anyone can bring in their drugs and have them checked free of charge.

For more information, you can visit substance.uvic.ca

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Just Posted

Sooke’s First Nations have Iroquois links

References to the proud Iroquois race tend to make one think of… Continue reading

Mad Hatter’s Ball offers laughs in support of Boys and Girls Club

Annual fundraising event features improv performances at McPherson Playhouse May 24

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

SidFest 7 ready to rock the Mary Winspear Centre

The Bankes Brothers and Madrona Drive headlining May 24 concert

Penelakut filmmaker Steve Sxwithul’txw finds success in film and TV

Cop-turned-storyteller reaches back to his past for Tribal Police Files

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

Canadian killed in Honduras plane crash

The crash happened in the Roatan Islands area, according to officials

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Most Read