The damage done

By Ivan Morgan / August 4, 2023

In the last month (and up to the time of this writing) at least 11 people in this province have died of drug overdoses related to opioid laced cocaine.

Remember how freaked out we all were at the four Covid related deaths at the beginning of the pandemic? Remember how we all hid in our hidey-holes for months for fear of the pandemic? Remember how the government doled out free money to make sure we were all looked after?

Why are we treating this epidemic (and it appears to be one) differently? I know it’s not the same thing: one was a dangerous pathogen that seemed poised to strike down anyone, and the other is caused by addicts, and others, using dangerous illegal drugs.  

But whether it’s a sniffle or a snort, dead is dead.

The media is full of folks with answers. The activists blame the government for not doing enough. The government says it’s doing what it can (but will do more), and grieving parents and relatives beg something be done to stop the deaths and save other people’s loved ones. Then the issue fades away and people keep on overdosing and dying.

Sorry if this comes off as cynical but this has been going on for decades. This is what happens.

Now is not the time for blame. Now is the time for action.

I don’t pretend to have any answers. I have questions.

This is being portrayed in the media as an emergency. What are we doing to deal with it right now, this instant? Harm reduction seems to be the strategy both government and activists agree on. How much harm reduction is needed seems to be the question. Can anything be done to stop these unnecessary deaths? Are we doing it?

Many people are dying. I hate statistics, but across Canada government says 34,400 have died of drug overdoses since 2016. Covid to date has killed 53,096. Again, I know it’s not the same thing, but it is still a lot of people dying.

Why are our reactions so different to this crisis than our reactions to Covid? Do people see this as an emergency, or just same old same old?

Like many, I believe addiction is a disease, not a moral failing, and our society is suffering right now from a terrible addiction pandemic. There are a lot of people out there in pain and desperation. I see them every day.

Some in society don’t see it this way. Some think drug addiction is a moral failing. They worry they could catch Covid, but don’t think they will develop a drug addiction. They don’t think it’s their problem.

That’s not the case. We all carry the burden of drug addiction. I’ve had to deal up close and personal with drug addiction and the consequences to my loved ones. The relatives of addicted people suffer terribly. More and more of us have been the victims of crimes caused by addiction. The strain on the health care system, the justice system and social services, which we all work to sustain, is growing.

Like it or not, it is our problem.

We have people in our society selling drugs they know kill people. Would it make more sense for us to supply people with addictions with a safe supply of these drugs? Would that be better?

I have questions, I don’t have answers.

Drug addiction is a symptom of deeper societal problems. People take drugs to escape desperation, hopelessness, and mental health issues. “Just Say No” is simply not an option for many. If only it was that easy.

People are hurting, and in the race to get away from the pain, they are dying.

I am no doctor, nor am I an expert on addictions, but in matters of the human condition I have always turned to writers over academics and other so-called experts. The great American writer John Steinback had this to say about addiction. “A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”

Ivan Morgan can be reached at ivan.morgan@gmail.com

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