Drug overdose deaths climbing

International Overdose Awareness Day is Friday and Central Alberta AIDS Network Society is working to break silence.

International Overdose Awareness Day is Friday and Central Alberta AIDS Network Society is working to break silence.

Over the last 12 months, CAANS gathered anecdotal data that showed 20 accidental overdoses — including nine deaths — among people known to the local charity.

Eight of the overdoses were women, including three fatalities.

“We’ve had three in the last two weeks, one that’s been fatal,” said Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, CAANS executive director, on Thursday.

The latest overdoses were linked to heroin, she said.

“The heroin in town right now is very pure. But it’s being sold at the same cost so people think it’s the same stuff that’s been here. They are using more than they need to and they’re not using testers.”

Last year in Alberta, 387 people died due to an accidental overdose from acute drug and/or drug and alcohol toxicity, according to preliminary data from the office of Alberta’s chief medical examiner.

Of those deaths, 45 per cent were Albertans living outside of Calgary and Edmonton.

Vanderschaeghe said data shows overdose deaths in Alberta have been climbing steadily over the years.

She said in Alberta, the number of deaths from overdoses is comparable to deaths from vehicle collisions.

“I continue to be shocked by the range and frequency of people who are overdosing. Even one death is too many.”

She said it’s important that nobody feels shame or disgrace over a drug overdose. It’s time to reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths and acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends.

About 50 per cent of overdose deaths occur when people start using again after a break because of being in hospital, jail, detox, or stopping for other reasons, she said.

“What happens is your body’s tolerance to the drug changes, it actually goes down, and people use the same amount as they were using before the break.”

Overdoses also happen when the drugs are not as pure, causing people to use more.

Vanderschaeghe said that people often don’t call 911 because they fear police will respond and they’ll be charged with drug possession.

“When we talk to people who use drugs, that’s a substantial issue.”

She said most overdoses are from opiates and a pilot program in Edmonton allows opiate drug users to access the anti-opiate naloxone that blocks receptors in the brain to bring people out of an overdose. Naloxone doesn’t harm people who are not experiencing an overdose.

“That is a program that would be really exciting to have in Central Alberta.”

Today, CAANS is commemorating International Overdose Awareness Day with community speakers, a sharing circle and barbecue at Rotary Park, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.

International Overdose Awareness Day originated in Australia in 2001.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Unemployment rate and EI beneficiaries down in Central Alberta

The unemployment rate for Red Deer region and the number of people… Continue reading

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month