By Kevin J Sabo
For the Advance
On average two people per day die in Alberta due to opioid overdose, according to the Alberta government web site.
The end result of this epidemic is that 746 people lost their lives to opioids in 2018, and the trend has continued to grow over the last few years, officials say.
With this information in mind, Castor and Coronation FCSS partnered together to bring a group of speakers from Turning Point in Red Deer to speak on the topic of drug use and overdose.
This is the third time the presentation has run in Coronation and beginning in 2020 the plan will be to alternate the presentations location between Castor and Coronation, sponsored by both communities FCSS programs.
Turning Point, formerly known as the Central Alberta AIDS Network Society (CAANS) has been promoting harm reduction, amongst many other activities, since 1988 through Central Alberta.
Some of their other activities include running a women’s program, rural outreach, prevention, Night Reach in Red Deer, and overdose prevention.
“There’s a story behind every person that’s using,” said Tricia Peden, an overdose prevention and education facilitator.
“The opioid crisis is happening in every socio-economic group in the province.”
A dozen members of the local community attended the event, and were educated on the signs and symptoms of an overdose, methods of substance abuse, how to administer Narcan in the event of an overdose, and information specific to fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that has been showing up mixed in many other illegal drugs.
“Fentanyl the size of a grain of salt can get you high,” said Peden. “Fentanyl the size of two grains is enough to be fatal.”
As part of the harm reduction measures that Turning Point uses, they operate a safe injection site in Red Deer, they clean up drug use debris when they come across it, they supply Narcan kits at no charge, they supply clean injection equipment at no charge, they help connect those wanting rehab with the proper resources in the community, and they reverse overdoses should they occur at the centre or through their community outreach.
To date, the group from Turning Point reported that there have been 300 overdose reversals since October alone.
The war on drugs has raged for decades in North America, and there are no signs of it ending anytime soon. Even the region surrounding Castor is not immune to the problem, according to stats released by the Coronation RCMP ending Dec. 31st, 2018. Two charges of drug trafficking and four charges of drug possession were laid.
A person who uses drugs will find ways to partake in the substances that they know are unhealthy for them.
Fortunately, there are people out there working diligently to reduce the stigma and risk of drug use, making it easier for those fighting the battle of substance use to get the help that they need, officials point out.
Narcan kits are available at no charge through Turning Point, and through any community pharmacy, no questions asked.