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

Port Hardy RCMP discuss reconciliation with First Nations

The RCMP “want to be emotionally respectful of the past while still trying to uphold the laws.”

VIDEO: Wounded Warrior Run leaves Port Hardy on eight-day trek down island

The team’s fundraising goal this year is $250,000, which is double last year’s goal.

Claims already being staked after GeoScience BC report released

In the first 15 days following the report, a total of 34 new claims were staked.

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: Waulkwass River

A kingfisher and some trumpeter swans came by close enough to get a few shots.

Port Hardy RCMP investigating drug offences

Both vehicle occupants may face future charges related to the suspected drugs and cash.

Rail disruptions expected to continue after new protest sites emerge

Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

COLUMN: Forestry no longer close to top of B.C.’s economy

Our reactions to a forestry downturn reflect the past, not the present

Caught on camera: Police release video of man who allegedly stole seaplane in Vancouver

Police say the man broke into the Harbour Air terminal and then got into one of the seaplanes in the harbour

51 health professionals send letter to Trudeau, Horgan panning northern B.C. pipeline

They point to studies about the health and climate change risks from pipeline

Fake meat and a latte? Starbucks adds Beyond Meat in Canada

The Seattle roaster has talked about introducing plant-based patties in the U.S., but has yet to do so

Groundhogs got it wrong: spring isn’t coming soon, Weather Network says

The only part of B.C. to warm up early will be Victoria

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Most Read