First responders join families, friends and volunteers in Centennial Square to mark International Overdose Awareness Day in 2017, to honour those lives lost to opioid-related deaths. Photo contributed

EDITORIAL: Overdose Awareness Day a chance for all of us to understand depth of problem

International range of events illustrate the scope of the opioid crisis

On Aug. 31, anyone affected by the opioid crisis, from users and their families to first responders and other service providers, will take time to remember those lost or who have had their lives forever changed by the use of illicit drugs.

International Overdose Awareness Day, marked in Victoria on Aug. 29 with naloxone training sessions, a call-to-action rally and a candlelight vigil of remembrance, offers a way for the various communities touched by the crisis to heal. Where some people may feel a distance from its devastating effects, thinking “it’s not my family,” or “no one I know is involved,” this day is designed to educate about the depth of the crisis and illustrate just how close to home it can strike.

Local media coverage of the shocking number of overdoses and deaths seen in Greater Victoria and B.C. due to this epidemic, which comes across as a running count of the destruction caused, might lead one to think our region is suffering the worst of the opioid crisis. After all, the fentanyl-fuelled scenario prompted the B.C. government to declare a public health emergency in 2016.

But the reality of the situation is that fentanyl and other substances that have led to overdoses are virtually everywhere and have created chaos in lives and for families around the world – thus the presence of the word “international” in this special day’s name.

Parents, siblings and friends everywhere have either lost loved ones to overdoses, or watched the journey back from a near miss. In our Aug. 29 and Aug. 24 editions, the News heard from people on both sides of the coin, and each had a poignant, heartbreaking story to tell.

We hope the marking of this day promotes better understanding of the issue, inspires more conversations, and perhaps creates empathy for those willing to face serious risks as a way to escape an uncomfortable reality.

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