New data from Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services come with some shocking statistics for drug users in South Vancouver.
That data says drug users in the region are four times more likely to overdose than those in areas that feature more open drug use, such as the Downtown Eastside.
Vancouver Fire and Rescue spokesperson Jonathan Gormick says it seems like stigma is pervasive in higher income communities.
“It’s broken down when people live on the Downtown Eastside, but when people live in dense, urban areas, I assume there’s a stigma attached to identifying as a user, which is terrible because it’s costing people their lives.”
He says that stigma is having dire effects on drug users across Metro Vancouver, especially when it comes to users having access to naloxone, or telling a friend so they aren’t using alone.
“It’s tragic because they’re both very preventable circumstances. I’m sure it’s difficult to tell your loved ones or to tell whoever you live with that you’re a drug user and that they should have naloxone ready, but it’s going to be much harder for them to find you deceased.”
Gormick says it’s a growing issue in communities like South Vancouver.
“It’s recreational users, it’s people who are transitioning off opioid painkillers. Now that it’s everywhere, the overdose deaths are popping up in areas where people either don’t have naloxone because they don’t expect they’ll need it, or because they don’t want to identify as a user.”
He hopes the new Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act will make a difference.
Ottawa passed the Private Members’ Bill earlier this month.
The bill provides exemptions from drug possession charges or probation and parole violations for anyone who calls 9-1-1 if they witness a drug overdose.
New programs needed
A group looking to improve the lives of drug users says programs need to be set up in residential areas in order to help address the overdose crisis.
The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users believes social programs where people can interact with each other seem to have the best results.
Board member Karen Ward says this is the easiest way to take away the stigma of being a drug user, which is preventing some from seeking help.
“It prevents people from actually being able to form social bonds that in of themselves resist the harms of addiction.”
She adds the programs need to reach all neighbourhoods because users outside of the Downtown Eastside have fewer services closer to home.
With files form Kyle Benning