Listening to the ongoing media reports of drug overdoses and deaths in Victoria, it’d be easy to look at this as a downtown problem.
But as we found out from speaking with four West Shore fire departments for a story in today’s Gazette, the number of drug overdose calls is increasing here as well. While the method of tracking such first responder calls and their specific details varies, anecdotally the number of overdoses related to illicit drugs is on the rise in our area.
In general, we don’t report on individual medical emergency calls, as doing so does not particularly serve the public interest. Where it does become a matter of public interest is when there is a trend, a dangerous pattern that is seeing people dying after ingesting illicit drugs. We’re there now in Greater Victoria.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the West Shore, with a population pushing 80,000, is a part of the current drug epidemic. West Shore RCMP have made some sizeable drug busts over the past year or more, with quantities of highly potent fentanyl seized on more than one occasion. The odds would indicate there simply has to be dealers out here who aren’t getting caught, and they all have customers, some of whom may live in our neighbourhoods.
Intravenous and other opioid drug users don’t all hang out downtown on Pandora Avenue or in the back alleys of Victoria, as some might imagine. While there may be more supply in the city – even drug dealers are smart enough to go where most of the customers are – our region is transient and dealers don’t pay any attention to municipal boundaries.
This issue is tending to polarize communities. Some argue those who overdose should know better or, at the extreme, that they had it coming to them for making bad life choices. Others are keen to provide better rehabilitation services to help get addicts clean, or at the very least, open more safe injection sites like the two already operating in Victoria, to reduce the number of deaths.
Let’s remember that no one sets out to become a drug addict. While we’ll never be able to save everyone who is unable to stop, ignoring them is not an option.