B.C. overdose deaths would be twice as high without harm reduction services - InfoNews

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B.C. overdose deaths would be twice as high without harm reduction services

June 05, 2019 - 2:00 PM

Research by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control suggests that 3,000 possible overdose deaths were prevented in a 20-month period by B.C.’s harm reduction services.

The study estimates that without the rapid expansion of these services and treatment strategies, the number of overdose deaths in B.C. would be 2.5 times as high.

The study examined the period between April 2016, when the overdose crisis was declared, and December 2017. During this period, there were 2,177 overdose deaths in B.C.

Harm reduction services during this time included:

  • The distribution of naloxone through the Take Home Naloxone program (averted 1,580 deaths)
  • Overdose prevention services and supervised consumption sites (averted 230 deaths)
  • Increased access to treatments for opioid use disorder (averted 590 deaths)



Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says the study speaks to the importance of harm reduction and the services are essential to turning the tide in the overdose crisis. The province declared a health emergency over the crisis in April 2016.

“Despite a highly toxic street drug supply, the average probability of death from accidental overdose decreased because of the services provided,” Dr. Mike Irvine, who lead the research, said in a media release.

Jane Buxton, the harm reduction lead at the centre, says the take-home naloxone program was already in place when the crisis emerged, allowing them to quickly expand the program to help save lives.

"Since the program ramped up in mid-2016 in response to the ongoing crisis, we've distributed between 4,000 and 5,000 kits every month."

Despite the program, accidental overdose remains the leading cause of preventable death in B.C.

Experts at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control agree that further strategies are needed to address the contaminated drug supply.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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