Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

Seeking an Antidote to BC’s Overdose Crisis


BC community members on the front lines of a public health emergency. All photos by Christopher Cheung. See bottom of page for details.

A record-breaking spike in illicit drug overdose deaths killed 914 people in British Columbia last year, sending all levels of government scrambling to respond.

Meanwhile, a street-level community of drug users, doctors and advocates have been at work on solutions. They’ve reversed hundreds of fatal overdoses and pioneered controversial treatments that, if they gain traction, could turn an illicit drug market on its head.

Jackie Wong reports from the front lines of a public health emergency.

This series was produced by Tyee Solutions Society. It was made possible through the financial support of Simon Fraser University’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Support for this project does not necessarily imply endorsement of the findings or content of this report. TSS funders neither influence nor endorse the particular content of TSS reporting. Other publications wishing to publish this series, contact us here.

Photo details (from left to right, starting at the top): Lee Gladue, whose life improved through opioid-assisted treatment from Crosstown Clinic; Dean Wilson, harm reduction advocate; Hugh Lampkin, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU board of directors; Laura Shaver, VANDU president; Chris Ewart, Sarah Blyth and Ann Livingston, Overdose Prevention Society co-founders; John Pinkney, who turned his life around after receiving opioid-assisted treatment from Crosstown Clinic; Les Kaczorowski, who has had no police involvement since receiving opioid-assisted treatment from Crosstown Clinic; Dr. Christy Sutherland, medical director of the PHS Community Services Society; Kevin Thompson, supervisor at the Washington Needle Depot’s overdose-prevention site and opioid-assisted treatment recipient.

In This Series



In Throes of Overdose Crisis, a Community Unites to Fight Back

Meet the people on the front lines of a public health emergency, and the solutions they seek. First in a new series.

By Jackie Wong, 25 Jan 2017



An Urgent Call on Overdose Crisis: Prescribe Drugs, End Prohibition

Simply put, ‘fentanyl is a product of our drug policies.’ Second in a series.

By Jackie Wong, 26 Jan 2017


Esther Tailfeathers

The Overdose Crisis: We Know How to Save Lives, Doctors Say

From an Albertan reserve to Vancouver’s inner city, caregivers share solutions for turning the tide. Part of a series.

By Jackie Wong, 27 Jan 2017



Five Ways to Stop BC’s Overdose Drug Deaths Now

Stopping the drug war and improving housing access is key. Part of a series.

By Jackie Wong, 28 Jan 2017