5 things we could do right now to curb drug overdose epidemic
Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day, and Metro looks at just a few of the ideas to end an ongoing epidemic that's on track to kill 1,560 British Columbians in 2017 — 70 per cent worse than last year.
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A new study by Simon Fraser University's Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction urged better addictions and mental health services for youth, and finds comparable data between provinces inadequate. Meanwhile, the Canadian Mental Health Association B.C. called for prioritizing early intervention for teens; their research suggested 58,000 B.C. youth don't get needed mental health help.
Treatment beds boost
Addiction experts and advocates have identified a severe shortage of addiction treatment options in the province, despite a 16-month-long declared public health emergency. Some substance users have to travel far to costly rehabilitation centres outside B.C., while others warn of inconsistent standards for existing private facilities here.
Downtown Eastside addiction expert Dr. Gabor Maté's ground-breaking book In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts revealed how almost all his drug-addicted patients had experienced abuse or neglect as children. Likewise, the First Nations Health Authority warned that lasting scars from colonization and systemic abuses were one reason 800 per cent more First Nations women have overdosed than other women. Clearly a mental wellness emergency is afoot, and psychosocial interventions beyond life-saving measures are urgently needed.
Most overdoses have been from drugs laced with fentanyl and its even deadlier cousins. An Aug. 17 B.C. Centre for Disease Control report asked, why not let opiate users grow their own poppies to ensure an untainted supply? It suggested authorities "explore medical opium" through "grower’s clubs, production on a model similar to medical marijuana, personal cultivation."
Legalize and prescribe drugs
It sounds extreme, but what could be more extreme than four British Columbians dying every day because of a contaminated drug supply? That's why drug user organizations such as the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users want not only more readily available prescription heroin — a proven harm reduction treatment endorsed by B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer — but an end to drug prohibition laws they say have let organized drug crime to essentially get away with murder. Portugal decriminalized hard drugs, for instance, a proposal echoed by Mothers Stop the Harm founder Leslie McBain, whose son died of an overdose.