International Overdose Awareness Day was commemorated in Prince Rupert with an event hosted at Git Lach M’oon, on Aug.31, with the attendance of Friendship House Association and the North Coast Transition Society.
The day of recognition is a global event held on the last day of August each year. It aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related death.
More than 1,110 lives across B.C. have been lost to poisoned drug supply in the past six months, Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, stated in a press release on Overdose Awareness Day.
She said First Nations communities have been disproportionally impacted by overdose and are dying at a rate 5.3 times greater than other B.C. residents.
The Prince Rupert event featured harm reduction training with access to community resources and support groups for the public.
Attendees heard from James Bruce, a specialized mental health and substance team member for Northern Health, about the benefits of Naloxone. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication that blocks the action of opiates — and only works on opiates, stopping its negative effects such as difficulty breathing.
“As far as medications go, it’s one of the safest ones out there,” Bruce said. “If someone doesn’t have opiates in their system, it does nothing.”
During the presentation, participants had the opportunity to remember loved ones who have fallen victim to drug overdoes by writing their names in heart to place on a display board.
Brad Collinson, who attended the event, and lost a cousin to an overdose last year, said he knows the risks of drug use well. He was participating in learning what steps and procedures to take when administering naloxone after a previous experience giving the medication.
“More people should be coming to this and events like this,” Collinson said. “We need to be aware of what steps to take and what numbers you have to call.”
It was only fairly recently that naloxone was made free to the public, Bruce said.
“There has been a lot of work and advocacy leading up to this so we can give naloxone kits to people, get them trained — so, if they come across someone they think may have an overdose, they can respond and potentially save that life,” he said. “Especially smaller communities, sometimes our emergency services are very busy [and] it might be a while for them to get there.”
In Prince Rupert, overdose victims have been successfully revived with naloxone, but also others have not, Bruce said.
Overdose is much more common than people think, and it can happen to anyone, Bruce said.
“Most people know a person, or know of a person, who has had an overdose.”
“It’s not just people that you see in alleyways, it’s also kids who are out partying and people who are trying to unwind after a long day,” Bruce, said. “They’re all at risk.”
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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