Overdose Awareness Day: supporting those impacted by substance use

Today is Overdose Awareness Day, a day for us to raise awareness of the poisoned drug crisis, support everyone impacted by substance use, and remember those who have lost their lives to an overdose or poisoned drugs.

In 2016, BC declared the toxic drug crisis a public health emergency. Since then, over 12,000 lives have been lost. It is now the number one cause of death for those aged 10-59 in BC, killing more British Columbians than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural diseases combined

To combat this crisis, we urgently need comprehensive public policies that prioritize the preservation of lives. It's time to shift our focus from politics to practical solutions. We must ensure a low-barrier and effective safe supply, enhance access to reliable physical and mental healthcare, and implement comprehensive harm reduction strategies.

Drug users face a fierce stigma in the healthcare system and society-at-large that prevents them from seeking or receiving the treatment and help they need.  Government needs to establish alternative pathways for safe drug supply by consulting with affected communities and implementing functional solutions. By reducing the stigma around drug use, users are able to better access the proper treatment and support needed for recovery.

A political climate where the severity of this crisis is continuously overlooked made me a fierce advocate for action from the provincial government, including calling for an all-party cooperation and a cross-party committee. The toxic drug crisis is connected to so many other problems our province faces: inequality, a lack of affordable housing and inadequate mental health services. We desperately need thoughtful and collaborative leadership to make political decisions that will actually bring about positive change.

B.C. has a Take Home Naloxone Program that provides free kits to reduce deaths associated with opioid overdoses. Naloxone is a medication that can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids. It’s important to know how to recognise when someone is having an overdose, and what you can do to help. Learn how to recognize when an overdose is happening, what to do, where to get a naloxone kit and how to use it here.

If you or someone you know is affected by substance use, you can find a list of Canada-wide and province-specific help services here, for everything from 24/7 telephone crisis lines to free support meeting groups.

If you are a healthcare professional, the 24/7 Addiction Medicine Clinician Support Line provides telephone consultation with expertise and knowledge in addiction medicine. 

Please share these resources with people you know who may need them. By increasing awareness, we can reduce the stigma of substance use and prevent more lives being lost.

In the face of this crisis, it’s important that we come together to support those affected, and continue to advocate for change to bring an end to this crisis that impacts communities across the province every day. Thank you for joining us as we strive for a safer and more compassionate future.

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