OUR VIEW: The opioid crisis needs you to give a damn

This newspaper published the results of a survey back in November by Research Co. about the opioid crisis.

The survey looked at what ideas the general public viewed as needed to deal with the crisis.

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The most popular idea, supported by 90 per cent of British Columbians, is more education and awareness campaigns about drug use.

So, hence this editorial.

We’re going to keep pounding away until more people start taking this crisis seriously because, clearly, not everyone is getting the message.

The latest numbers show that there were 120 suspected drug overdose deaths in B.C. in November, representing a whopping 13-per-cent increase over the number of deaths in the same month last year.

The B.C. Coroners Service says an average of four people died every day last month from an illicit drug overdose.

The latest figures show 1,380 people died by overdose between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2018, almost exactly the same number who died between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2017.

The service says the majority of those dying from overdoses are men aged 30 to 59, and most overdoses are occurring indoors.

The three cities experiencing the highest number of illicit drug overdoses are Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.

The coroners service says 1,486 people died of overdoses in B.C. last year. It is expected to announce the overall death toll for 2018 sometime this month.

In a recent Research Co. survey, almost two-thirds of British Columbians (64 per cent) describe the situation related to opioid drugs in their community as “a major problem.”

It feels shocking that that number isn’t far higher.

So, what are some of the solutions?

One popular idea in the survey is the creation of more spaces for drug rehabilitation, which is supported by 88 per cent of residents. In September, the federal and provincial governments announced a $71.7 million investment in what was described as “innovative treatment options for people with substance abuse disorders.”

Two other ideas are also supported by majorities of residents. Almost four in five British Columbians (78 per cent) believe it is time to reduce prescription of opioids by medical professionals, and two-thirds (66 per cent) would like to set up more “harm reduction” strategies, such as legal supervised injection sites. That last item should be something the federal Conservatives will need to answer for in this fall’s federal election due to their distinct lack of support for something that clearly saves lives.

The most contentious concept, of course, is the decriminalization of all drugs for personal use. Half of British Columbians (50 per cent) voice opposition to this course of action, while 45 per cent are supportive.

As more people die, we expect the number of people who support decriminalization to grow.

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