Opioid crisis: an “urgent” decriminalization of drugs called for

It is “urgent” to decriminalize drug use in Canada if we want to save thousands of lives, concluded the Coroner’s Office of British Columbia by analyzing more than 6,000 deaths related to overdoses that have occurred in recent years.

According to the organization, the vast majority of the 6,007 fatal overdoses recorded in the province between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2021 – the period studied by the Coroner’s Office – are explained by the consumption of a mixture of drugs, voluntarily or not.

Thus, 85% of the victims had traces of fentanyl in their body, while 49% had cocaine and 38% methamphetamines. A substance from the benzodiazepine family, etizolam, is also gaining popularity and was found in the bodies of 40% of victims between July 2020 and July 2021.

In the eyes of the coroner’s office, these results demonstrate that drug consumption must be decriminalized in order to allow consumers to have access to better controlled substances. At the same time, the government must act to make drug use more socially acceptable.

“Concrete actions to support the destigmatization of drug use will require the decriminalization of this behavior and the addition of assistance for people who use drugs in the health network,” assessed the coroner’s office in his report.

Since the official start of the opioid crisis in British Columbia in April 2016, more than 8,700 people have died from overdoses, including 2,224 in 2021 alone. Overdoses are the fifth leading cause of death in the province, behind cancer or heart disease, but far ahead of COVID-19, diabetes or accidents.


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