SURREY (NEWS 1130) — Overdose deaths among young adults, women, and South Asian men are rising, according to a report from the Fraser Health Authority.
Men between the ages of 19 and 59 still make up the largest number of fatal and non-fatal illicit drug overdoses in the region.
Those findings have the region’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Martin Lavoie, calling for an end to the stigma people face when disclosing their addictions.
“I think, as a society, we have work to do in terms of not stigmatizing people doing drugs. I think this is probably a key element, because people who are using drugs are struggling with a challenge, a health issue, a health challenge, and they are addicted,” Lavoie said.
“Each day, we hear from parents, families, or friends of loved ones who have tragically lost someone. We must continue our focus on this public health crisis and show the same compassion we have shown in addressing the COVID-19 health crisis.”
He said using alone is a big risk factor.
“If you use alone, there’s no one around you to bring you back with Naloxone,” he added. “I think it’s a societal issue. It’s not just about all the institutions. Of course, we are trying to do more, trying to find ways to reach out more.”
The new report was developed after reviewing medical charts of 105 people who died in 2017 and 2018 from illicit drug toxicity in Fraser Health.
The average age among those who died was 25, and about 80 per cent were male. Of the latter, 12 per cent were working.
Close to 70 per cent of males who died showed evidence of a mental health condition.
More than 70 per cent had a substance use disorder, while half had experienced an interpersonal conflict with friends, family, or intimate partners the year before their deaths.
Opioids were the most commonly used substance among males, followed by stimulants, cannabis, and alcohol, though not all contributed to their deaths.
Among females who died, the average age was 40. Two-thirds of those were mothers, while 18 per cent were employed.
Nearly all (85 per cent) showed evidence of a mental health condition or a substance use disorder, and 55 per cent experienced or witnessed emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in their lifetime.
Stimulants were the most commonly used substance, followed by alcohol and opioids.
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Among South Asian men who passed away due to drug toxicity, two-thirds were under the age of 40.
Of those, 43 per cent were working, and 51 per cent may have had a mental illness, while 45 per cent experienced an interpersonal conflict with friends, family, or intimate partners the year before their deaths.
Alcohol was the most commonly documented substance, followed by opioids and cocaine.
May saw a record number of overdose deaths in British Columbia, with 170.
Fraser Health says it has taken a number of steps in response to report findings, including expanded virtual consultations, producing more resources in Punjabi, working with South Asian volunteers with lived experience to share their stories about substance use and treatment, and increasing promotion of the Fraser Health Crisis Line.