The facts are in. Canada is facing an overwhelming opioid crisis, with staggering numbers that we have never seen before. The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy are calling for action now to save lives. Since the year 2000, the rates of deaths attributed to drug overdose have drastically increased nationwide. They have increased so dramatically, that the B.C. provincial government declared a public health emergency on April 8, 2016. To date, there were 433 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths from January to July 2016 in B.C. This is a 73.9% increase over the number of deaths occurring during this same period in 2015 (which was counted at 249). Other governments may soon follow suit.
Many of these deaths are as a result of people accessing the illegal and unregulated black market where fentanyl and other unregulated opioids are being sold to people who use drugs. Many are totally unaware of the potency of the drugs they are buying, and we fear that the death tolls will continue to rise until the all governments take immediate action to address this crisis.
We all know that overdoses are preventable. There are ways to intervene in this serious situation that can begin to turn the tide on these unnecessary deaths. Overdose does not discriminate; it affects peoples from all aspects of society.
That is why we are asking you to sign on to our Call to Action, "ACTION = LIFE: A Call for an Immediate Response to the National Crisis of Opioid Overdose Deaths." Our organizations have outlined five key policy points that we’re presenting to all levels of government to mark International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31st. To read the Call to Action please click here.
Our 5 recommendations are:
1. Rapidly scale-up access to naloxone, a life-saving emergency medicine to reverse opioid overdose.
2. Enact and publicize “Good Samaritan” Legislation that gives immunity from arrest for those who, in the presence of an overdose, call 911 for assistance.
3. Expand access to treatment.
4. Fully repeal the Respect for Communities Act, which creates barriers to life-saving and health- protecting safer drug consumption services
5. Convene a National Task Force on Opioid Overdose Response and Prevention.
We are asking your organization to join us by endorsing our 5 recommendations that call for action at all levels of government by Monday, August 29 at 5:00pm PST. (We are currently seeking only organizational endorsements, not those from individuals.) It is important that the governments hear those of us who work on the front lines of this crisis, from the research community, doctors, families and friends of those who use drugs and the many other Canadians concerned about the opioid overdose crisis. Please sign the above Call to Action and let’s work together to save lives.
Disclaimer: We encourage you to share this message with your colleagues and friends so their organizations can endorse this statement, but please do not post it on social media (the final Call to Action with all endorsements will be share on August 31st.)