Information on the cost of drug and alcohol related emergency calls is harder to find in Alberta than it is in the United States. In Ohio there is a move underfoot, especially by one lawmaker, for a “strike three you’re out” policy. He had quoted an average cost of $1,300 per OD call for first responders only and they had approximately 1,000 calls in 2016-2017. His closing statement was that “soon we will run out of money for this”.
What I did find in an AHS report dated Nov. 27, 2017, was that Alberta distributed roughly 36,410 Naloxone kits in 2017 at a CBC reported cost of $27 each totalling $983,088.00 per year. I believe that even this cost has been subsidized by the different governments. Even though the kits were used many times, the actual number of actual deaths averted with the use of Naloxone was 278 (Jan. 1 to Sept. 30). At the kitchen and apartment buildings we are associated with we have found about a dozen unused, discarded kits. In one case, the Naloxone had been discarded and replaced with cocaine in order to mislead the RCMP when this person was checked.
That’s the medical cost, what about the cost to property and landlords? In speaking to several property owners and landlords, one stated that over several years his company has spent $30,000 to $40,000 a year for extra secure doors, video surveillance, and damage repairs, of course affecting the cost of rent.
In my research and discussion on this subject, I am coming to the conclusion that we have to stop thinking the way we do and come up with a strategy; changing laws if we have to. But first we have to face the facts and if need be change our personal views to properly and fairly deal with this ‘crisis’.
We have to stop calling addiction a disease! A person may have a propensity towards an addicting behaviour but it is still always a choice whether or not to indulge. Period! It is the same as a propensity toward any kind of negative behaviour that you or I might have; we have to make a decision to submit to it or not. Just look at the #metoo movement. It is no different with alcohol or drugs. By calling it a disease, we give the practicing addict an ‘excuse’ for their harmfully ridiculous behaviour. I have already dealt with the term ‘harm reduction’ in that it applies only to the addict and not the general public at large.
Periodically in our court system, in order to reduce the numbers in jails, guilt for a crime is excused using the argument the individual was not responsible because the drugs altered their mind. All the while the general public shows their compassion by giving more and more to these folks to keep them clothed and warm and fed. This is a beautiful thing to witness, but there is a side to this that hard-core addicts take advantage of. In the words of several former addicts, “there was never a need to change, all of our needs were met, so all of our funds went into drugs”.
Should we encourage our leadership throughout this fair country to change the methods by which we battle this problem? I definitely don’t have all the answers, but experience alone has taught me that left the way it is right now, it will not be too long before public reaction or opinion could re-evaluate the value of life if we don’t take a proactive and preventative approach to this problem that is devastatingly destroying so many of our youth and their families.
This is the third installment of a five part series.
Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potters Hands.