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.

Just Posted

Hospital chief of staff provides a COVID-19 update; face coverings available for free starting this weekend

Vigilance needed; face coverings soon to be available throughout valley

Invermere mayor says bill payments can wait and asks visitors to please stay home

Al Miller provides an update on the District of Invermere and COVID-19.

Social distancing for wildlife, please

Outdoor photographers urge humans not to get too close to local wildlife.

RCMP and COVID-19 orders

Weekly Columbia Valley RCMP report

DTSS calls for self-isolation yearbook photo submissions

DTSS seeking photos of students doing their favourite self-isolation activities

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Sanders drops 2020 bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee

Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday

B.C. faith leaders, Horgan discuss need for virtual religious ceremonies

Leaders were open to providing other ways to celebrate during the pandemic

Emergency COVID-19 funding now available for children with special needs

Funding to be used to help support families through uncertain times of pandemic

Revenue dip needed to qualify for wage subsidy drops to 15% in March: Trudeau

Wage subsidy would over 75% of each employee’s salary for qualifying businesses

B.C. closes all provincial parks for COVID-19 protection

Easter weekend approaches, camping already closed

Air Canada says it will apply for wage subsidy to rehire workers after cutting 16,500 jobs

Air Canada said March revenues fell by more than 30 per cent year over year

Most Read