November 16, 2020
It’s been a difficult few months of anxiety, loneliness, frustration and anger. COVID- 19 has changed our world. For weeks, even months, we have been told to isolate, to wear masks, to keep our distance from other people in an effort to flatten the curve of the pandemic – and it’s starting to work. However, while this health crisis is starting to stabilize, there is another heath crisis we are battling in British Columbia, and this one is on the rise: the opioid epidemic.
The opioid epidemic in British Columbia has been raging for years, and, in recent months, we have seen a staggering increase in the amount of opioid overdose deaths. Unfortunately, this epidemic disproportionately affects the construction industry; as a result, construction workers are disproportionately represented in the fatal overdoses. The BC Coroners Service reported 170 fatal overdoses linked to illicit drug use in May 2020 – the highest recorded number for any single month to date. If we do the math, that is almost a heartbreaking six deaths a day! Even from month to month, we have seen a 44 per cent increase in deaths from April 2020 to May 2020, and, comparing deaths to May 2019, we have seen a 93 per cent increase in deaths.
When it comes to tackling this epidemic, we are caught between a rock and a hard place. The very nature of the COVID-19 pandemic requires us to socially isolate from others, to keep our distance. Conversely, one of the recommendations for those using opioids is to never do so alone. So what can we do?
Here are some recommendations if you, or someone you know, chooses to use opioids:
- Easy access to naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Rapid access to naloxone has shown to be lifesaving. If you choose to use, make sure to have a naloxone kit close by that a friend or family member can access. If you need a naloxone kit, feel free to contact us at Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan (604-521-88611) and we will get one out to you.
- Tell a friend or family member. One of the dangers of using alone is that no one is aware of the overdose. Tell a family member or friend when they should expect to hear from you, and to call for help if they do not.
- Download the Lifeguard app. The Lifeguard app helps prevent overdose death by sounding an alarm that has to be manually turned off. If the alarm is not turned off, the app will automatically send a text-to-voice call to 911.
- Decrease the amount you are using. It is important to keep in mind that if you have not used opioids in a while, your tolerance may have lowered. If you choose to use, start with a smaller amount to help prevent overdose.
During this difficult time, CIRP has continued to offer services through video counselling. We provide mental health and substance use support services, so feel free to call us for assistance. It is
important to remember that self-care both emotionally and physically will greatly benefit you and your loved ones during this trying time.
Stay safe and well.
Nicole Che, Program Assistant
Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan