Overdose advisories are in effect right now on Vancouver Island and the health authority is trying to reach out to some of the drug users who are most at risk of overdose.
Island Health announced Tuesday, May 4, that it is launching an eight-week awareness campaign aimed at men who use drugs alone.
Island Health said of the 263 illicit drug toxicity deaths on the Island last year, 225 of the people who died were men and 126 were in a private residence when they overdosed.
“We know that among those who die from toxic drug poisoning, men who use alone are at greatest risk,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s chief medical health officer, in a press release. “We want them to know their lives matter and there are supports and treatments to help keep them alive.”
Island Health noted in the release that people who live with addictions may hide their drug use. That leads to using drugs alone, which leads to a higher risk of overdose death because the ability to seek medical help is diminished.
The new campaign will seek to support men to break their silence.
“People use drugs for many, complex reasons, and often even the people closest to those who’ve overdosed didn’t know they were using,” said Sheila Malcolmson, B.C. minister of mental health and addictions, in the release. “That’s why breaking down stigma about who uses drugs is so important. Let’s have open conversations that encourage people to break the silence and reach out for help.”
Island Health points to B.C. Coroners Service data that shows half of the men who died from toxic drugs were employed, and more than half worked in trades and the transport industry.
Island Health suggests rather than use drugs alone, people should try to be in the company of someone who can administer naloxone and call for help if needed. The health authority also recommends testing drugs, taking a small tester hit before a regular hit, or accessing supervised consumption services where available.
The LifeGuard app is available at www.lifeguarddh.com, the national overdose response service can be reached at 1-888-688-6677 and Island Health resources are available at http://islandhealth.ca/stopoverdose.
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