Four years into the opioid crisis it’s near impossible to be unaware of overdoses in BC given the sheer number of emergency overdose calls and deaths from illicit drugs.
July marked the highest number of overdose responses ever recorded by BC Emergency Health Services; more than 2,700 overdose calls in one month. B.C.’s paramedics are currently responding to about 80 overdoses every day.
The Coroner’s office reports July was the third consecutive month with more than 170 suspected illicit drug deaths in B.C. These are the highest monthly drug death totals ever recorded.
For International Overdose Awareness Day, Aug. 31, BCEHS paramedic practice leader Jon Deakin says awareness is absolutely key to this public health emergency.
“Without awareness there continues to be the stigma around drug use which leads to people using drugs alone, not having conversations about it, not connecting with others,” Deakin says. “Without awareness, people continue to use alone.”
Deakin suggests if overdoses are ever going to stop or decrease, substance use needs to come out of the shadows.
Paramedics go into the shadows every day when responding to overdose patients from all age groups and from all walks of life.
It’s why paramedics consistently stress the importance of:
- not using alone; be with someone who can watch over you;
- making use of the Lifeguard App so there is a connection to an emergency dispatch centre should you fall unconscious;
- and calling 9-1-1 if you see anyone who may be experiencing an overdose.
On August 31, paramedics encourage you to talk to others about drug use, reflect on the grief felt by families and friends who have had someone die or be permanently injured as a result of a drug overdose, and step into the shadows of substance use.