In the annals of bold decisions, British Columbia’s move to legalize drugs emerges as a standout. Canada, ever the trailblazer, proudly holds the distinction of being the first country to dismantle the iron gates around narcotics. But oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to… legalize.
Enter Justin Trudeau, renowned for taking the scenic route to decision-making. The path he chose led to British Columbia becoming the inaugural province to break open the drug floodgates. A round of applause for him, please.
British Columbia is reeling under a toxic epidemic. Drug epidemic. As evidenced by the fact that fatal overdoses from opioids and other illicit substances are now the main cause of mortality for young people between the ages of 10 and 18 in the province.
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Data released recently by the BC Centre for Disease Control show that 2022 was the first year overdoses overtook other causes of death among this age group, after two years as the second-most-common cause. Fentanyl, a highly strong opioid that is frequently mixed with other street drugs without the awareness of the users, is becoming a major factor of drug-related deaths among young people.
The Grim Statistics Unveiled
Peering through the lens of data, a chilling picture emerges. A horrifying shift has taken place in the dominion of BC.
The age bracket of 19 to 39 succumbed to the illicit embrace of drugs, making it the leading cause of death since the fateful year of 2016. More than 12,260 people have died in the province as a result of toxic drugs since the public-health emergency was declared.
Oh, but the drama doesn’t end there. The 40-to-59 crowd decided to join the grim ballet. That same year, illicit drugs became the second-most-common cause of death among people aged 40 to 59.
Whither Do We Go?
Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions says,“The toxic drug crisis continues to have a devastating impact on families and communities in B.C., and the impact on children, youth is heartbreaking.”
Matthew Carwana, a pediatrician and University of British Columbia researcher who studies substance use disorders in young people, said the numbers represent the most severe outcomes. The true number of young people who are struggling with addiction is likely much higher, he said.
There were nearly 600 severe or life-threatening overdoses reported among young people by the doctors who said they had treated at least one of them in the previous two years.
Dr. Oviedo-Joekes said, “These are the people we are supposed to protect at any cost.” “If we continue with this stigmatizing, punishing drug environment, they will not open up and they will continue dying.”
So Mr. Trudeau, legalizing drugs may have been a step forward in policy, but it has led to a harrowing dance with death, one whose grim rhythm echoes through the lives of its youngest victims.