EDITORIAL: Opioid crisis numbers still too high

Drop from a year ago not enough, so more needs to be done

One thing stands out from the 2019 data released by the BC Coroners Service on the number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in B.C.

The total may be down from the previous year, but the fact 981 people died in the province due to a “poisoned, unregulated drug supply” is still far too many. The number clearly spiked in 2018, but are we really making any progress?

The fact it’s still referred to as a “poisoned” supply by government officials makes you believe it’s OK to take drugs as long as they’re regulated. It’s not. Drugs are drugs and the outcome can still just as easily wind up the same.

The provincial government makes it sound like it’s done all sorts of things toward establishing ways for heavily addicted individuals to get off drugs completely. But is that really the case because all we keep hearing about are the safe methods for people to continue taking drugs?

The safe injection sites and now pending dispensing machines aren’t a long-term answer. Until the drug use stops, there’s no guarantee people won’t continue dying in high numbers even with a so-called “safe supply.”

Judy Darcy, the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, is obviously compassionate and points out there are many measures her government is taking.

“We have scaled up more life-saving supports like naloxone and overdose prevention services and created more pathways for medication-assisted treatment and for recovery,” she says in a press release.

“We have more treatment beds coming online this year and tough new regulations in place so that people in recovery homes get better care. We are also working with health authorities to further expand access to medication-assisted treatment for people living with opioid-use disorder. And we are working in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority to build two new urban Indigenous treatment centres and rebuilding six more in rural B.C.”

Let’s hope this is all going to pay off because it’s clearly an urgent situation. We can’t sit back and wait for actions to create results.

Only time and the numbers will tell in the year ahead if enough is being done.

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