Lindsey Richardson and Jenna van Draanen: Addressing overdoses means addressing the systemic issues that increase overdose risk

published on December 12, 2017 by Lindsey Richardson and Jenna van Draanen in The Province

The most recent B.C. Coroners report on illicit drug overdose deaths confirmed, tragically, that deaths from overdose and drug poisoning continue to take an unprecedented human toll in this province. 

So far, laudable responses have rightly focused on immediate health outcomes amidst a contaminated drug supply. Supervised consumption and overdose facilities, drug testing, the distribution of overdose-reversing Naloxone and access to injection and non-injection opioid assisted treatment are all expanding. All are critical in reducing overdose deaths.

It is important to remember, though, that most of our current efforts do not stop overdose, they only prevent it from becoming fatal. If we hope to create long-term, meaningful reductions in overdose deaths, a question that requires considerable attention is how to prevent overdoses from occurring. 

As we look deeper into the coroners’ data, we get a clearer picture of what lies behind these grim statistics and, perhaps, some ideas about additional paths we can take to reduce fatalities.

Included in the report was this: fatal overdoses occurred during the days following income-assistance payments at a rate nearly double that of those that happen at other times. There was an average of nearly six overdoses per day on the Wednesday to Sunday following income-assistance payments compared to 3.6 for all other days in 2017.

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