Strange times we live in; very strange as immediate history comes chattering into our lives via a multitude of electronics designed, so the people who use them say, to keep “the public informed.”
Sometimes it can be a little confusing as our newspapers, television and radio stations bury us in the rubble of babble, reminding us that the biblical Tower of Babel – created in the Book of Genesis to explain diverse human languages – collapsed for a reason.
It can be argued that I get easily confused. Maybe that was the case a couple of days ago when my local daily published BC Chief Coroner Lisa Lapoint’s monthly report on the use of illicit drugs. By the end of May, with 2021 less than six months old, at least 851 British Columbians had been killed by consuming a drug they once believed harmless.
In her report, Lapoint again stressed her now old plea for the provincial government to find “safe alternatives” to be made available throughout the province for opioid users who discover, too late, the difference between popping a bill for pleasure and eventual addiction.
Of the 851 BC deaths this year, 160 were in May – a slight drop from the 177 in May 2020, which had been a new high for the month. It breaks down to 5.2 deaths a day.
Producers of street drugs are finding ways to vary the ingredients. In April and May, the Coroner’s Service tested “extreme concentrations of fentanyl.” In 75 deaths this year so far, “carfentanil – a more potent analogue of fentanyl – was detected.”
Also detected in the Devil’s broth were “benzodiazepines, Valium and Xanax,” which the Coroner’s Service warns “creates significant life-saving challenges for first responders when used in combination with opioids.”
So – and well may you ask – what do I find “confusing” about a community problem clearly and responsibly outlined by our Chief Coroner and reported by newspaper reporter Cindy E. Harnett?
Simple really. I find it confusing that a problem can be so clearly defined and stated by a senior public servant with a sense of responsibility to the people she swore to serve – and then ignored.
Coroner Lapoint has served us well. She has turned the spotlight on a grievous life and death tragedy that could be halted if essential health care were provided. Administering controlled drugs to an addict in a safe setting will never be a popular political decision. But it would be the wise and humane course of action until a better way can be found.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson added her voice to the newspaper story with a few weak-wristed suggestions for addicts: “The drugs you might use today are not the same as they were one or two years ago” and an advisory on where they can find free advice on drug checking and reduction services.
Oh, and: “As British Columbians gear up for a social rejuvenation after much sacrifice and restraint, please have these conversations with your family and friends …”
Good advice but she should understand that more than “conversation between family and friends” is required. And “safe alternatives” as suggested by the Coroner are available. Time to stop talking. It’s decision time.