Some people might see Island Health’s decision to provide tips for safe drug use at music festivals as condoning the use of illicit drugs, or at the very least, shrugging their shoulders at the idea that users can be weaned off the drugs.
As the organization that oversees public health, it is charged with helping people live their lives in a safe way and remain as healthy as possible. But its most basic duty is to help keep people alive.
That is the issue at hand when it come to the opioid and fentanyl crisis that has gripped the province for the past year or so. Faced with the challenge of making significant steps in warning people of the present dangers of drug use, given the potential for fentanyl-related tragedy to strike, Island Health is doing its best to work within this difficult situation.
No one wants to see people continue to die at the rate they have been in recent months, especially when many of the deaths were preventable, to a degree. Acknowledging that some people are going to use no matter what, the health authority’s harm reduction staffers are out to curtail the fatality rate, and that is admirable.
Equally so is the efforts by organizers of music festivals on Vancouver Island to create safe places for people who are bound and determined to use drugs to ingest the substances, as a way to prevent overdose deaths from happening on site.
In a perfect world, everyone would find other, less potentially lethal methods to given themselves that high, and that includes abstaining from alcohol. But the reality of the situation shows that isn’t the case and we have to play with the hand that has been dealt us.
Using whatever means possible to prevent deaths, regardless whether they come from people making unhealthy choices, is never a bad decision. We look forward to Island Health continuing to refine its strategies in this regard, in co-operation with the operators of large events at which drug use is common.