The District of Lake Country saw its number of overdose calls double in 2020 over the previous year. (Black Press file photo)

The District of Lake Country saw its number of overdose calls double in 2020 over the previous year. (Black Press file photo)

EDITORIAL: Addressing our ongoing opioid crisis

It must not become British Columbia’s forgotten health crisis…

The opioid crisis continues to plague British Columbia.

While COVID-19 has dominated the news since the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic a year ago (March 11, 2020), deaths from opioid overdoses are taking a toll throughout the province.

In 2020, there were 1,716 deaths from illicit drug overdoses, by far the highest number in British Columbia’s history. This year, in January alone, there were 165 overdose deaths in the province.

The number of overdose deaths in B.C. is significantly more than the nearly 1,400 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic. This comparison should not downplay the pandemic, which is a serious concern for our province, our country and our world.

Rather, it is important to remember and highlight the ongoing opioid crisis in this province. Illicit drug use, addiction and drug-related deaths are tragically serious problems.

Overdose deaths are not limited to large urban areas, but are also happening in smaller communities in this province.

Substance abuse and opioid addiction are as much problems in Vancouver Island communities as they are in urban hotspots like Vancouve and Surrey. On the Central Island, drug toxicity deaths increased by more than 50 percent last year.

The numbers of overdose deaths are not just statistics. They represent people who lost their lives as a result of overdoses, and they are mourned by family, friends, coworkers and close acquaintances. In addition to the deaths, there have also been numerous overdose cases which have resulted in hospitalization.

Controlling and reversing this growing problem of opioid addiction and deaths is a difficult and expensive undertaking, and it will require an ongoing effort. This is a problem that will not go away on its own.

The opioid crisis is continuing to take a toll throughout this province, and it continues to affect all of us, directly or indirectly. It must not become British Columbia’s forgotten health crisis.

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RELATED: Overdose deaths hit hard in Central Island region

RELATED: With 1,716 deaths, 2020 deadliest year of overdose crisis in B.C. history

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