FROM OPIUM TO FENTANYL: HOW DID WE GET HERE?

RANDY SHORE, March 18, 2017

Vancouver has always had a drug problem. Only the opioids of choice — and the increasingly staggering death toll — have changed over the years.

When the members of the Royal Commission to Investigate Chinese and Japanese Immigration came to Vancouver in 1901, they got an eyeful.
“There are whole rooms of Chinese lying stretched out on beds with the opium apparatus laid out before them — all unmindful that their attitudes and surrounding conditions are being taken note of to assist in keeping the remainder of their countrymen entirely out of Canada,” reported the Vancouver World newspaper.
The so-called “Oriental commission” had hired a photographer and engaged a detective to guide them to the heart of the opiate trade, “the dope dives in the rear of No. 6 Dupont Street.”
The fringes of Chinatown have always been the centre of Canada’s opiate trade. Ever more potent and easily smuggled versions emerged through the decades, culminating in the scourge of synthetic opiates — fentanyl and carfentanil — thousands of times more powerful and many times more deadly than opium. Read more…

Opium smoking was widely popular with early Chinese immigrants to Metro Vancouver, as with these workers taking a puff during a break at Imperial Canning in Richmond in 1913. (City of Richmond Archives)