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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich roads doused in more than 300 tonnes of salt during snowstorm

Crews cleared roads around the clock during the mid-January storm

Three Saanich councillors ask for $2-M investment into District road safety

‘I don’t want roads to be safer in 30 years, I want them safer now,’ says Coun. Ned Taylor

Hydro pole fire closes portion of Metchosin Road in Colwood

Motorists are advised to avoid the area of Metchosin Road near Royal Bay

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

‘We thought it was an earthquake,’ homeowners okay after tree falls

Mature tree falls on roof of Victoria Avenue house

VIDEO: The Victoria byelection leads a selection of today’s news stories

A selection of Greater Victoria top stories for Jan. 17

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

POLL: Has the recent snow had an impact on your daily life?

Old Man Winter had Greater Victoria in his icy grip this week.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 14

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

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

Most Read