Almost three years into the experimental opiate “safer supply” program in British Columbia and no one, including those handing out the pills, seems to know if it is working or making the problem worse. There’s no shortage of opinions arguing on either side of the debate, but recent reports suggest that the facts remain in short supply.

Safe supply initiatives fall under the broad category of harm reduction programs. For opiate addiction, the program typically involves the prescription and distribution of pills like hydromorphone, a medical-grade opioid that is as potent as heroin, to addicts. The underlying hope is that addicts will then forgo possibly tainted illicit street drugs in favour of the “safer” government-provided pills.

More than 40,000 Canadians have lost their lives to opioid overdoses since 2016, and B.C. is one of the world’s first jurisdictions to take the “safer supply” route in an effort to quell opioid overdoses.

But B.C.’s auditor general just released a report on the trial program and, so far, it remains unclear as to whether the program has made any progress. Opioid deaths are still increasing and, while the report doesn’t criticize the underlying philosophy of “safer supply,” it does note “deficiencies in key areas.”

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