Irrational Thinking 81: Marginalized Community in Pandemic

QiuLin, Social Worker in Detox, Vancouver

In the last edition, the author has written about how people started drinking to spend the day during the COVID19 pandemic stay home order. And there is an increasing tendency of addicts to stay home to take marijuana or heroin, and subsequently more deaths due to fentanyl overdose. Last year (2020), there are 1,716 deaths in BC alone (roughly the same number of death due to COVID19). This is worrisome, especially when it shows a 74% increase compared to 984 deaths in 2019. As of 8/31, International Concern for Drug Abuse Day, there have been more data regarding death related to drug abuse. Beginning this edition, I will devote more coverage addressing drug abuse and overdose death in the greater Vancouver metro area, BC.

Up till the end of August, there have been 1,000 deaths related to overdose of abusive drugs, meaning 125 each month, or 4 to 5 a day. We cannot help but to ask what is the problem? What is causing the number of deaths?

In an emotional setting reported by Jon Hernandez 2021.08.31, CBC network news, a mother was shown holding a picture of Ola, her daughter, one of the victims found dead due to drug overdose in 2016. According to the news, it was the night of Christmas of 2015, Deb Bailey, mother of the 21 years old daughter, spent her night in the morgue. Deb recalled that two days before Christmas, Ola went out shopping, and by the time Deb saw her again, she was lying in the morgue, still gowned in her clothing when she left home, she looked like she was asleep. This brave mother was able to express first hand surreal experience with death due to overdose of abused drugs, and to let people understand what kind of pain that would bring upon to families of victims. Aside from sympathizing the mother, I cannot help but to question what is causing it? What can be done in the future to stop it? Yet, many unsolved issues remain!

Drug overdosing leads to death, and since BC made announcement of toxic drug crisis 6 years ago, there has been 7,000 deaths within that 6 years. Looking at the number of deaths alone, and especially the past 2 years, there has been an upward trend. In the CTV report of 2021.08.31, Lisa Lapoint, Chief Coroner of BC, shared, as of the first half (of 2021), there have been at least 1,100 deaths suspected to be related to toxic illicit drugs, a record high. This is at least 150 deaths per month for a continuous 9 months in BC, or more than 100 deaths per month for a continuous 16 months. The major impact is on indigenous people, who share 3.3% of BC’s population, but 15% of the total number of deaths!

Who is the culprit exactly? Fentanyl – according to the BC Coroners Service. Between April and June of 2021, cases related to extremely concentrated fentanyl have been on the rise, 14% of drugs tested shows extremely high fentanyl concentration, compared to 8% in 2019. In 2021, Carfentanil, the most potent among fentanyls in the opioid class, 95 cases of death show positive test in carfentanil, a rise from 65 cases last year. In other word, the culprit is either carfentanil or fentanyl. To be more precise, people who take drugs that contain fentanyl or carfentanil know the fact (usually they have been taking it for a while, few are rookies). Possibly, these people might not even know of the content of fentanyl, thinking that it is plain cocaine or heroin instead.

“As far as we know, cutting back the supply of adulterated illicit drugs should cut the tide of deaths”, said Bailey. She is a member of Mother Stop the Hurt. “We should supply people with safe drugs that won’t kill.”, Bailey proposes that our society should supply safe drugs to addicts. This proposal has multiple extended meanings, subject to further discussion later. Trey Felton of Overdose Prevention Service in Vancouver stated that fentanyl has already polluted almost all illicit drugs in the area, people will unknowingly inject these drugs into their bodies. Trey’s statement has brought validity to the work of this author. Many drug addicts that come for help from the author have expressed that they have no knowledge of the fentanyl content in their drugs.

In the next article, I will introduce fentanyl in detail and especially how it works to attract users and causes death subsequently.

“save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even th garment stained by the flesh.” (Jude 1:23)