How Depressing Overdose Stats Could Derail Opioid Crisis Progress

published on January 31, 2018 by Sarah Berman in VICE

We’ve seen it happen with climate change. Here’s how experts keep going without feeling doomed.

It’s a hard fact to wrap your head around: British Columbia’s overdose crisis worsened in 2017. And not just by a little.

Despite a public health emergency declared nearly two years ago—greenlighting a bunch of innovative harm reduction programs—more than 1,400 people died last year, compared to 993 the year before. Fentanyl was detected in the vast majority of those cases.

Like climate change, the opioid crisis is a massively complex issue. BC Centre on Substance Use scientist MJ Milloy says we’re working against decades of failed drug war policy, as well as intersecting housing and inequality issues, which can’t be undone with one silver bullet solution.

“We’re now having to come up with not only means to try and reduce levels of death and disease in communities, but also try to figure out new policies at the same time,” he told VICE.

In the world of climate activism, this complexity has worked in favour of people trying to derail progress, according to Dembicki. “The problem is so huge and scary that all the incentives point in the direction of people ignoring or denying the enormity of problem,” he said. “I found this a lot with climate deniers. When someone comes along who seems to have scientific credentials and gives an explanation about why the world isn’t totally doomed… we’re primed to want to believe it. It removes a psychological weight from our shoulders.”

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