June 18th, 2024

Alberta in drug poisoning crisis, say activists

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on March 26, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

After the announcement made by Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis last week, Friends of Medicare and Moms Stop the Harm groups have shared their reactions.
“We think the government is ignoring the drug poisoning crisis that’s happening across our province. We think it’s a crisis, a public health crisis and needs a response that reflects that and we’re not seeing that,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director at Friends of Medicare.
The province released data late Thursday showing 176 people died in both November and December, bringing the yearly total to 1,758.
Lethbridge had the highest rate of drug poisoning deaths in those final two months, more than doubling the provincial average.
“That (stats) had been long delayed, and we saw that it was the worst year ever for fatalities by far,” said Gallaway.
He said their announcement was basically a non-announcement since he believes they are not doing enough to stop what he believes to be a drug poisoning crisis.
“You can’t tour around the province talking about recovery if people are dead, they can’t recover if they’re not alive. So we think it’s kind of a cover up in issue and are failing to respond to what is actually a crisis,” said Gallaway.
He said the government could come up with better solutions if they actually met with members of the community affected by addiction, whether that be users, family members or those servicing them.
“They might come up with better solutions than an app and asking the police for help. I don’t think that’s what anyone was asking for,” said Gallaway.
He said the real issue right now is the supply is so toxic and we need to be looking at safe supply but the government is stacked against the idea.
“The government seems bent on opposing anything that looks like harm reduction and we think that needs to change,” said Gallaway.
Moms Stop the Harm Lethbridge lead, Lori Hatfield, echoed Gallaway’s words when she said that it is devastating that Lethbridge numbers are at record highs for overdose deaths, which she believes proves the UCP government policies in the plans they are implementing are not working and the only thing that will prevent overdose deaths is harm reduction.
“Until harm reduction is incorporated, we will only see the numbers rise,” said Hatfield.
She said the problem is that drug toxicity is very high in the streets and compared it to Russian roulette for those using them, as they never know if it could potentially kill them.
Hatfield compared addiction to other diseases like diabetes and heart disease, she said that if a person has an unhealthy diet which results in diabetes they are not shamed and stigmatized for it and they are able to receive a “clean supply of insulin”.
“They don’t have to go to the street to find drugs to compensate that, like they don’t go look for insulin and get toxic supplies of insulin,” said Hatfield.
As far as those with heart conditions, she said that when they have an episode that causes them to have a heart attack, they are not disrespected and treated like garbage.
“It’s just amazing that we are in the year 2022 and people are still judged and stigmatized about addiction, when we know so much about this and we know it is a disease and we know how to treat it,” said Hatfield.
She said there are many avenues of treatment for addiction but the UCP government seems to be focusing only on one.
“In the world of harm reduction there are so many avenues out there, if a person had just used safe supply and if we had a safe supply out there people would get a regular safe dosage and they would be able to manage that, and they would be able to continue on a daily basis and be a regular person operating in society like the rest of us,” said Hatfield.

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old school

Drug addiction is not comparable to heart attack or diabetes. Diabetic will take medicine to make them self better, not worse. A heart attack is not a choice. It may a result of poor lifestyle choice or genetic predispositions.Heart attack patients generally try to improve themselves afterwords. Not fair to compare these conditions.

pursuit diver

Lethbridge has a safe consumption trailer at the Alpha House shelter, with many openly using drugs on that property and addicts state even inside the shelter, along with many other issues there that I will not repeat they said, and when you enourage and enable addicts in their addictions without proper addiction counselling you will have high numbers. All North America has had increases in fatal overdoses, not just Lethbridge due to COVID restrictions.
Lethbridge is a dumping ground where communities dump their shelter overflow or problematic people they banish from their communities on us.
When a shelter like one in Edmonton closes they pay to transport those people to other areas, and Lethbridge has been a favourite dumping ground. Indigenous communities banish trouble makers, even giving them rides off their communities, and Lethbridge sits beside the biggest indigenous community in Canada, the Blood/Kainai Reserve, which in itself is wrought with problems of gangs and drug abuse extending up into some that are well educated and old. We are close to 3 other indigenous communities whose people end up our our streets, the Pikani in Brocket and the Siksika is Gleichen, with even some Blackfeet Nation peoples from the Montana community. We have people from other indigenous communities as far away as Thunder Bay, Ontario and the gangs were not evolved on our streets, but in these communities. They come and attract many non-indigenous to their lifestyle of crime and addiction!
What is needed is a firm stance by police that illegal drug use and prostitution on our streets will not be tolerated and effective drug treatment programs that work and follow the addict into job placement after the treatment with supports and counselling.
If you overdose, we need to place these people under mandatory 48 hour medical watch in a facility that has ‘professionally, educated/accredited’ and experienced counsellors that can try to get them into treatment in that 48 hour period!
We need to make changes in laws and support our police and effective programs!
We will never stop all of the fatal overdoses, but alcholics still are dying from their addictions after legalizing alcohol a hundred years ago. We need to say NO to ALL drugs! Coroner report stats a couple of years ago showed many of the fatal overdoses had both the prescribed treatment opioids plus illegal opioids in their system, so giving them more free prescribed drugs will not work!
If Mom’s Stop the Harm really wanted to stop the fatal overdoses, which 65-70% are in the persons residence, they would realize the BC model, harm reduction is a failure, after 18 years of it’s attempts to make if work!
How many more must die because people are not willing to understand this!??

Last edited 2 years ago by pursuit diver

THE PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY OF CANADA UPDATED THEIR INFORMATION TWO Days AGO: There was a total of 26,690 apparent opioid toxicity deaths between January 2016 and September 2021https://health-infobase.canada.ca/substance-related-harms/opioids-stimulants#fn1
– During the first year of the pandemic, there was a 95% increase in apparent opioid toxicity deaths (April 2020 – March 2021, 7,224 deaths), compared to the year before (April 2019 – March 2020, 3,711 deaths). Since then, deaths have remained high.
– A total of 5,368 apparent opioid toxicity deaths occurred so far in 2021 (January – September). This is approximately 20 deaths per day. For a similar timeframe in the years prior to the pandemic, there were between 7 (in 2016) and 12 (in 2018) deaths per day.
– A number of factors may have contributed to a worsening of the overdose crisis over the course of the pandemic, including the increasingly toxic drug supply, increased feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety, and changes in the availability or accessibility of services for people who use drugs.
It is this last statement that is pertinent to this conversation. What has been done to date to curb the death toll is not working. Alberta is lacking in both compassion and creativity. Harm reduction is creative in that it acknowledges that if one form of treatment/ response is not successful, then another must be tried . Our AB government is rigid in its approach… a kind of ‘my way ( abstinence and repentance) or the Highway response . The highway in this case is often death. How we yearn for an AB health ministry that is forward thinking, that embraces change makers with creative solutions such as safe/ safer supply. With a leadership review pending and an election in sight, bring on creative politicians that can end this tragedy of the opioid crisis. Our youth are dying, we are losing a generation of workers. The carnage can only stop when Albertans start choosing leaders that are daring rather than dinosaurs