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International Overdose Awareness Day

by Caitlin Yardley September 6, 2016
International Overdose Awareness Day

Canada needs to address the surge in drug-related fatalities

According to The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, opioids are responsible for approximately 50 per cent of all drug drug related deaths—Canada is now faced with addressing this issue.

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is an annual event held on Aug. 31 that aims to open up the conversation regarding drug overdoses. The day also aims highlighting the harm that overdosing can cause, not only to the individual, but to those around them as well.

British Columbia’s Public Health officer, Dr. Perry Kendal, announced a province-wide state of emergency back in April 2016, in response to the province’s surge in drug-related deaths. The province announced 76 fatalities in January 2016 alone.

The province of British Columbia also announced a large contributing factor to the rise in overdoses is due to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, with the province announcing that 49 per cent of overdoses in the first three months of 2016 were related to the drug.

“Fentanyl is more powerful than drugs like morphine,” said Concordia psychology professor Uri Shalev.

Shalev explained that fentanyl is a very effective pain-relieving drug to those with an opioid tolerance. He said issues arise when inexperienced users attempt to abuse the powerful substance.

Graphic by Florence Yee.

“Addicts won’t overdose unless the supply changes,” said Shalev. He explained that the mixing of substances is when overdoses begin to occur, for users no longer know how much of a substance to take before their lethal dose is reached.

According to the Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Network, during this year’s IOAD, 70 organizations from the Canadian Civil Society made an urgent call to action regarding Canada’s current overdose problem.

The urgent call to action consists of a list of five recommendations, which call for all levels of the Canadian government to take immediate action in addressing the issue. Part of the plan involves rapidly increasing the distribution of naloxone, a medication used in response to overdoses. Professor Shalev said naloxone is a miracle drug in reviving individuals from overdoses. However, he said that educating citizens and users is the most effective way to tackle the problem. Other recommendations include expanding access to treatment for users, and enacting the Good Samaritan Legislation – a legislation which gives immunity against arrest to those present during an overdose.

Graphic by Florence Yee.

The Canadian Civil Society is now urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Canada’s health and justice ministers, to implement an action plan, to address the rising problem.

Those wishing to show support for the cause can donate to the IOAD. All funds go towards tackling the issues surrounding substance abuse. Supporters are also encouraged to host their own IOAD events. More information about how you can get involved, visit the Overdose Day website.

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1 comment

Peter September 6, 2016 - 23:49

Very informative article and well written!

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