Fentanyl pills seized by police in Alberta. (RCMP)

Editorial: Need to try something new in drug crisis

The BC Coroner Service released the number of drug deaths in March and it’s not good news.

The BC Coroner Service released the number of drug deaths in March and it’s not good news.

February had seen a bit of a decline, with 102 deaths (still an almost unbelievable number), but March saw a spike to 161 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths in the province. That’s the second highest monthly total to date, the Coroner Service tells us.

As you let those numbers sink in, consider that fentanyl was detected in more than eight in every 10 of those deaths. And that seven in every 10 of those who died was between 19 years old and 49.

Fentanyl is cutting a deadly swath through our adult population. There’s simply no denying it. Our drug strategies are not working. The death toll only continues to rise, seemingly with no end in sight.

Cowichan Valley communities, of course, have seen nowhere near the number of deaths experienced in the City of Vancouver, but we shouldn’t be complacent. Our communities have been hit as well. More of our problem is just hidden behind closed doors. It’s important to realize that it’s not just downtown Duncan’s homeless population that are fighting and losing this battle with opioids.

Most of those who have died have done so indoors — more than 90 per cent. And none of them have died at an overdose prevention site. No, it is those who are hiding their addiction behind the doors of their homes, in ordinary neighbourhoods, who make up a significant portion of those most at risk.

We’ve seen the horrific suggestion that we should just throw up our hands and let those who are addicted die, as if somehow they’ve brought a death sentence upon themselves. The lack of compassion and understanding of the problem is frightening. People need help, and real avenues to access the necessary services, not thoughtless armchair judgments on their how deserving they are to stay alive.

The provincial government announced this week $4.7 million in funding for Our Place Society’s Therapeutic Recovery Community. While any and all funds put towards treatment are most welcome, it’s a drop in the bucket given the scope of the problem.

Is it finally time to decriminalize simple possession of all drugs (not trafficking, production and the like), and treat addiction like the health crisis it is? We need to try something new.

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