B.C. government bringing awareness to growing drug toxicity

B.C. is gearing up to shed light on safe drug use and resources for a healthy semester

As students are returning to campus and gathering together socially in what feels like forever, the provincial government is reminding students of the ways they can make informed decisions about drug use.

“͞With students coming back together after a long, hard time apart, many are excited to socialize and celebrate. If that involves drugs, be sure to buddy up and carry Naloxone at all times, know the risks and how to stay safer,” Sheila Malcolmson said, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

Drug toxicity in British Columbia has been a pressing topic for many years, with the number of drug-related fatalities growing by astounding numbers as time passes. Studies over the past decade have seen the number of illicit-drug-related deaths grow, with fentanyl proving to be the silent killer with approximately 1,288 suspected deaths in 2020 according to the BC Coroners Services.

Data shows that of the age ranges most affected by the ongoing crisis is that of the typical post-secondary student. With numbers teetering at the top, ages 19-39 showed to be the age group with the highest concentration of fentanyl-related deaths.

To ensure students attending universities and colleges are knowledgeable about the severity of
the drug-poisoning crisis affecting communities throughout B.C. and actions they can take to
stay safer, the Province has extended its Toxic Drugs Are Circulating awareness campaign. The campaign will point to harm-reduction resources, including education on recognizing signs of overdose, responding using naloxone and the Lifeguard app.

͞The Toxic Drugs are Circulating campaign meets students where they͛re at and gives them tools to help stay safe,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training.”As students return to campus and social activities, we want to make sure they are safe, informed and have access to the information and supports they need. It is important for us to do what we can to turn the tide on the poisoned drug crisis affecting British Columbians.

The Toxic Drugs Are Circulating campaign ran provincewide in August and has been extended
to specifically reach post-secondary students in the fall. This is just one of many measures being taken to support young people in B.C. and help keep them safe.

Some of these measures include expanding access to naloxone, launching Here2Talk, a free and confidential 24/7 mental health counselling and referral service available to B.C. post-secondary students. They will also be expanding Foundry centres and Foundry Virtual to help youth up to the age of 24 access a variety of supports.

“With more than five people dying each day in British Columbia because of poisoned drugs, it͛s crucial that people understand that toxic drugs are circulating, and people should take every precaution when they use,” Malcolmson said.

To ensure the campaign reaches post-secondary students, the Province is working with colleges, universities, health providers and other key stakeholders to spread the campaign͛s messages on campus, social media and in popular social spaces where students gather.

“It͛s time to move beyond the ͚just say no͛messaging of yesterday because we know that some students will decide to use drugs at some point,” James Cabangon, associate vice-president, AMS Student Society of UBC Vancouver said, “Our harm reduction project informs students about naloxone kits and distributes as many as possible throughout campus. The more kits we distribute, the more lives we can save. Having said that, we͛re glad to see our projects serving each other in value and hopefully, in effect.”

The awareness campaign will run on targeted social media as well as at on-campus locations throughout the fall.