When the province declared a public health crisis in the wake of the climbing number of illicit drug overdoses in B.C., some people may not have realized the scope of the problem.
As indicated in our page 3 story today (West Shore Crisis: First responders busy with overdose calls), the seriousness of this issue has touched the West Shore as well as other areas of Greater Victoria and Vancouver Island.
According to Island Health medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick, we’ve reached a stage where the medical community feels there should be a supply of the drug naloxone available in advance for people who know they’ll be using hard drugs at any given time.
In some ways it parallels the idea of keeping anti-pregnancy drugs by the bedside or in one’s purse in the case of an unplanned, unwanted or forcibly conceived child.
The distinction is, the naloxone could mean the difference between life or death if the drug user overdoses.
The number of suspected overdoses and poisonings is continuing to rise on the West Shore. Regardless of why someone chooses to ingest drugs, very few people intend to cause themselves great harm by doing so.
This sad situation provides a bit of a moral dilemma. Does providing a drug that could be a lifesaver appear to condone the practise that causes the need for it? Or if we value human life – and we believe most people do – is it imperative that we use harm-reduction strategies to minimize the potentially deadly effects of illicit drugs?
Not everyone supports the idea of safe-injection sites, for example, but if their presence means users have a chance to live another day and have one more opportunity to make the decision to quit, or at least seek help for their addiction, then it’s probably a necessary evil.
Likewise for supplying naloxone, if that is what the medical community believes is the best option to combat this current drug crisis.
The life situations that prompt drug use are far too complex to tackle head on, but at least this solution could well save some lives.