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It’s time to focus on and learn more about addiction. That from the First Nation Health Authority (FNHA), as it reflects on B.C.’s National Addictions Awareness Week.
The annual week, currently underway, is helmed together by its “Driving Change Together” theme.
With this in mind, the FNHA says it’s important to support people experiencing addiction, and talk about harm-reduction, treatment, recovery and other approaches.
A message from FNHA CEO Richard Jock and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nel Wieman finds everyone has a role to play in effecting positive change.
“We need to work together now more than ever to support people on their healing journeys,” they say.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol sales have risen and there has been a large increase in toxic drug poisoning deaths. The pandemic has created many challenges, resulting in increased stress, anxiety and disconnection.”
Knowing this, the pair point to “three practical and powerful ways” people can support themselves or others who are experiencing addiction: compassion, culture and connection.
Jock and Wieman say addiction is a health issue, not a moral issue, stemming from profound physical, mental, emotional and spiritual distress.
They say First Nations people are amongst those most impacted by the drug poisoning crisis, accounting for 14.9 per cent of all toxic-drug deaths in 2020, despite representing just 3.3 per cent of B.C.’s population.
“According to our most recent data, 142 First Nations people in BC died of toxic drug poisoning from January to June of 2021, a 25.7 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2020.”
But deaths due to drug toxicity actually remain the leading cause of unnatural death in the province, officials note.
Earlier this month, the BC Coroners Service announced that 333 lives were lost to toxic illicit drugs in August and September, raising the total number of overdose deaths this year to 1,534.
This National Addictions Awareness Week, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson says she’s reflecting as well, keeping in mind the “devastating effects” of addiction.
“Our government is working to build a seamless mental health and addictions system of care in B.C.,” she adds.
“Almost every week we are opening new treatment and recovery beds and adding additional programs and services to help with addictions, no matter where people live or how much money they make.”
Read Malcolmson’s full statement here.