Dec. 12, 2021

Scourge of illicit-drug deaths outnumbers COVID deaths

We are in the midst of two concurrent pandemics – which is worse, COVID-19 deaths or illicit drug deaths? Is the public health response proportional? We've had 369 more drug deaths than COVID-related death.

 In the first 10 months of 2021, we have had 1,782 drug-use deaths and 1,413 COVID-related deaths in British Columbia. The response is not proportional.

We have been locked down, mandated, masked, vaccinated and isolated in response to the virus pandemic. There has been minor pushback to the government response, but it’s been pretty smooth sailing. We’ve had vaccines, passports, lockouts but very few claims of “human rights” violations.

On the other front, we’ve had 1,782 illicit drug-use deaths in the first ten months of this year. Virtually every one agrees that “something” has to be done, but what is that something?

It has been suggested in this column for a number of years that mandated treatment is the only answer. It provides mental health treatment, a roof over their heads, a dry bed and full nutrition with three square meals a day. That most often gets the response that it is a violation of their human rights, you cannot enforce treatment. 

Shortly after becoming Mayor, Leonard Krog suggested the same approach, but the pushbback was quick and negative. Rights were being tampled.

Reread the first section of this column again – when do rights issues take precedence over the common good? Human rights arguments are made for one and not the other.

There is a great lack of understanding – ignorance – about the drug pandemic which is the second largest cause of death in B.C., second only to cancers.

The general perception of drug users is “those dirty bums living on the street” with mental health issues. Well, I’ve got news for you, only 14.9 per cent of the deaths occurred outside and 83 per cent happened indoors. The shocker to many is that 55 per cent of drug deaths occurred in private residences.

Oh what goes on in the bedrooms of the nation. Males accounted for 1,400 of those deaths and females were at 381 and one unknown. Another eye opener is that only 15 per cent (273) were under age 30 while the 30-60 age group accounted for 71 per cent (1,264).

The illicit drug issue has a lot of attention, but not anywhere near that of Coronavirus. There’s imbalance in the response to the two issues and it needs attention. It’s a question of who has the most human rights.