Apathy and Overdose: a free event and a huge problem

A group of Toronto-based organizations and individuals concerned with drug use and human rights are hosting a free event June 18 on naloxone and how to stop drug overdose in time to save a life. It should be part of any basic first aid training.

Event organizers are calling accidental drug overdose a major health crisis. The event notice cites Andre Picard, health reporter for the Globe and Mail, from April 14 of this year:

“The people using and abusing opioids (and dying as a result) are not all stereotypical ‘junkies’ shooting up in alleys. They are also grandmothers who take too many painkillers, labourers who get addicted after treatment for a back injury, teenagers who raid their parents’ medicine cabinet, kids who mistake pills for candy and recreational users who can be anyone from Bay Street brokers to squeegee kids.” 

The attention Picard gave the issue is notable because for all the unnecessary deaths that it causes, accidental overdose by opioids (including heroin and prescription painkillers) does not get much press. It’s one of those issues towards which many feel apathy (hence the title of the knowledge-sharing event and this blog post): it’s not flashy, it’s not sexy, and worse, it often affects marginalized populations that more privileged groups don’t want to think too much about.

A well-known CNN medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been raising awareness about the dangers of accidental overdoses for years. He did a jarring TV report on naloxone, showing a raw video of a group of people saving their friend’s life after she overdoses.

Naloxone saves lives. It’s what Toronto health and drug rights advocates are pushing to be more readily available in Canada. Friends, family, and health professionals need to have access to it. Naloxone is a non-addictive substance but is currently only available by prescription.

Anyone who has ever lost or come close to losing a loved one to drugs, whether illegal or legal, and no matter the level of use or addiction, understands the urgent need to do something. Unfortunately, it’s already too late for many who could have been saved. So kudos to those who work tirelessly to bring this unpopular subject to the public eye and fighting for what’s right.

G.W.

 

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