Uncovering the Face of Vancouver’s Opioid Epidemic

published on March 16, 2018 by Ashley Hyshka in The Runner

Middle-aged men, more than any other demographic, are dying from opioid overdoses

While conversations about Vancouver’s opioid crisis often conjure images of litter-strewn back alleys on the Downtown Eastside, recent data has revealed that the crisis is actually most prevalent in the private homes of middle aged men.

Last year, 1,422 people in British Columbia died from illicit drug overdoses, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. Of those victims, 82 per cent were men, 88 per cent were alone in a residence at the time of death, and over half were 30 to 49 years of age. Fentanyl was detected in 81 per cent of the total fatalities.

The face of Vancouver’s opioid crisis is becoming clearer, but for responders and researchers on the front lines, it’s still not clear enough.

“Just by looking at those numbers, that’s why we’re in a crisis,” says David Florkowski, Dean of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Faculty of Health. “The numbers are skyrocketing fast and we don’t know why.”

The Biology Behind an Overdose

According to M-J Milloy, a UBC Assistant Professor of Medicine and a research scientist with the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), using opioids triggers “a sort of feedback loop which we know reduces pain, reduces anxiety, [and] produces feelings of euphoria and well-being.”

“Unfortunately, it also triggers a creation of, over time, a pretty tight feedback loop in which the individual has to continue to take opioids, continue to trigger those receptors, or else they’ll go into withdrawal.”

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