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Editorial: Conversations about drug use can help save lives

Island Health campaign looks to combat stigma of drug use to encourage harm-reduction measures
A needle in a naloxone kit. (News Bulletin file photo)

A visiting member of Parliament, holding consultations in Nanaimo around drug decriminalization last month, said using opioids is like playing “Russian roulette” right now.

For drug users and anyone who cares about them – which should be any or all of us – it’s a disconcerting thought that the next overdose death is just a matter of time. Years into an overdose crisis in B.C., it has touched most of us by now, and it only makes it harder to think there was a grim Russian-roulette inevitability to these deaths.

Throughout the overdose crisis there have been people calling for drug policy changes, and there has been public health messaging around harm reduction. After so many coroners’ reports, maybe we can start talking differently when we talk about drug use, because we need to continue to combat stigma.

Island Health, this spring, is launching another campaign specifically to try to get through to men who are using hard drugs.

The majority of the health authority’s 327 preventable overdose deaths in 2021 were among men aged 30 to 59, according to a news release from Island Health. Most drug poisoning deaths occur in private residences where there’s almost no opportunity to seek help in the event of an overdose.

Island Health continues to try to promote harm-reduction services including tech like the Lifeguard app and Brave app that can alert friends or emergency services to a potential overdose, or the National Overdose Response Service hotline at 1-888-688-6677.

As governments study decriminalization and safe supply and try to catch up with the demand for addiction treatment, and talk about the issue, we can talk too. It’s vital that we talk about it.

-files from Victoria News/Black Press Media

READ ALSO: Island Health targets male drug users

READ ALSO: Health Canada mulls lower threshold for drug decriminalization, says B.C. minister

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