A look at how a new opioid-dispensing machine located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside works. The pilot project was unveiled Friday, Jan. 17, 2019. (MySafe/Twitter)

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

It works like an ATM but for medical-grade opioids and the creators behind a new machine in the Downtown Eastside say it will help combat the overdose crisis that’s killed thousands across B.C.

A biometric dispensing machine has been installed at the Overdose Prevention Site on East Hastings Street and was unveiled to the public this week. The heavy machine, bolted to the floor, contains tablets of hydromorphone – an opioid medication that can work as an alternative to heroin.

It’s part of a groundbreaking initiative called the MySafe Project led by safe drug advocate Dr. Mark Tyndall, a professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.

Tyndall introduced the idea, which was received by some as a controversial concept, publicly in 2018.

“So basically, it’s an 800-pound, secure dispensing machine – much like an ATM – where people can get a safe supply of drugs,” Tyndall explained.

READ MORE: Pop, candy and now opioids in vending machines?

READ MORE: As feds ease access to prescription heroin, B.C. could see relief, doctor says

The machine uses biometric scans that reads the vein patters on the palm of a person’s hand to verify their identity, and then dispenses a drug in a little box in the bottom. Participants can use the machine up to four times per day.

Currently, the machine is being used by five registered opioid users, who were each evaluated on their drug use, as well as health and social status, by a physician. However, the dispensing machine can hold enough supply for up to 48 prescriptions.

READ MORE: Opioids to be dispensed via vending machine on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Roughly 4,500 people have died from an illicit drug overdose in B.C. since the government declared the crisis a provincial health emergency in 2016, with Vancouver seeing the lions share of the fatalities.

While the province has worked to try to curb the staggering number of deaths, including by making the opioid-reversing antidote naloxone freely available and by introducing fentanyl testing strips, a growing number of health advocates have been calling for the federal government to decriminalize hard drugs and offer a safe supply.

“Back in 2016 the game changed, a supply of heroin which had been pretty steady for the past few decades was being replaced with fentanyl and people were dying – voices in the community and my friends and people I had treated and seen over the years,” Tyndall said.

“At the end of the day we had to do something about the situation where people were buying mystery drugs from criminal gangs to offering them an alternative through a safer, pharmaceutical supply of opioids.”

ALSO READ: Canada first in the world to approve injectable hydromorphone to treat opioid addiction

Tyndall said the hope is that the project helps “break the cycle and the hustle” users go through to access their drugs.

M Y S A F E from Colin Askey on Vimeo.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Schubert Centre reopens with new chef, menu to serve Vernon

Farm-to-table focused chef aims to serve up more local eats to seniors, diners

Petition wants ‘aggressive dogs’ banned from Vernon-area parks

Local woman starts online petition to urge RDNO to change bylaws after reported dog attack

Interior Health continues to tackle COVID-19

IH president Susan Brown says don’t become complacent about pandemic

Cops for Kids to pedal through Vernon Saturday afternoon

Supporters are encouraged to cheer on their local RCMP participants at 3:30 p.m.

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

‘This is a very difficult sentencing’; Judge delays Okanagan manslaughter trial to next week

The courts heard Friday that Bourque “did not intend to cause harm” but that her actions were “reckless”

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Most Read