Groups like Moms Stop The Harm, here seen outside the B.C. Legislature in June, have called for the decriminalization of drugs. Each flag on display represents someone who has died of an opioid overdose. (Black Press file photo)

New report finds B.C. victims of opioids crisis on lower of end of socio-economic spectrum

UVic scholar calls for decriminalization of drugs responsible for opioid crisis

A scholar of addiction who teaches at the University of Victoria says new data about the opioid crisis underscores the need to decriminalize drugs currently deemed illegal.

Bernie Pauly, an associate professor in the UVic School of Nursing and a scientist with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (formerly CARBC), said the data released by Statistics Canada Monday confirms that the “devastating” and “tragic” opioid crisis is impacting a range of people, with individuals from lower-income bracket affected worse than others.

Pauly made these comments after Statistics Canada released a report into the sociology of those who died of illicit drug overdoses between 2011 to 2016 in British Columbia, where the most illicit drug overdose deaths have happened, rising from 293 in 2011 to 639 in 2016.

RELATED: Opioid crisis may be shortening British Columbians’ life expectancy: report

Looking at regional numbers, recent figures from the BC Coroners Service shows Greater Victoria has seen 64 illicit drug overdose deaths between Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 — down from 91 in 2017 and 68 in 2016, but up from 22 in 2015. Vancouver and Surrey have so far led the way in 2018 with 256 and 131 deaths.

The federal study found among other points that 34 per cent of people who died from an illicit drug overdose in British Columbia had no earnings during the five years prior to death. That is eight per cent more than the number of people who worked in each of the five years prior to dying from an illicit drug overdose.

As for the remainder, some had some level of employment during the reference period prior to their death.

“The contrast in these statistics shows that this crisis impacts individuals from all walks of life — the employed and the unemployed alike,” the report read.

READ MORE: New in-depth report sheds light on who in B.C. is dying of drug overdoses

READ MORE: B.C. doctors told not to limit opioids or refuse care of chronic pain patients

Pauly agreed with this argument that opioid users who die come from all walks of life — but only to a degree, noting that men in their 30s and 40s make up a major share. Victims also tend to be lower on the socio-economic scale, she said. According to the report, British Columbians who were employed in the year prior to their fatal overdose earned an average of $28,437 — below the 2016 average income of British Columbians of $42,000.

A similar pattern appeared with social assistance. “In British Columbia, 40 [per cent] of people who fatally overdosed did not receive any social assistance benefits (or provincial or territorial supplements) in all five years prior to death, compared with 31 [per cent] who received assistance in each of the five years,” it reads.

This new reporting does not include any regional figures that would help policymakers target specific groups. For Pauly, this fine-grained analysis might not be necessary though to deal with the larger problem.

“We have an unsafe drug market because of our current drug laws,” she said, calling for the decriminalization of illicit drugs.

Canada, she added, has made progress on files like cannabis, but more can be done in other areas.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Double lung transplant gives West Shore man second chance

Co-owner of West Shore Barber Shop grateful for every minute of the 16 years transplant has provided

Hallmark movie filming in Oak Bay

Shooting for ‘Sunshine’ continues into June across Greater Victoria

City says traffic pattern on Bay Street Bridge will stay as is until October

Commuters began facing long waits on Tuesday morning after the east-bound lane was closed

Home where Proctor murder took place removed from Langford’s Affordable Housing Program

Langford woman almost purchased home, decided against it after hearing history

PHOTOS: Victoria youth continue to gather for climate action

Local students participated in a global movement calling for climate action

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve investigating after sea lion found shot in the head

Animal is believed to have been killed somewhere between Ucluelet and Tofino

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Volunteers already rescuing fry from drying creekbeds around Cowichan Lake

It’s early but already salmon fry are being left high and dry

So, they found ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’

Dave Tryon, now 72 and living in North Delta, will reunite with long-ago travelling friends in Monterrey, Calif.

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

Most Read