Government Extends Drug Abuse Campaign Until Fall To Reach Post-Secondary Students


The provincial government recently launched a campaign to educate people about toxic drug supplies and hopes to gain the attention of post-secondary students.

The Toxic Drugs are Circulating campaign launched in August, but has been extended specifically to reach post-secondary students this fall. According to Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson, people with lived experience who do a lot of work to train the government’s approach to these issues say it is important to reach new drug users.

“First-time drug users, recreational drug users, can just as easily be caught in this trap, so they really encouraged us to step up the information campaign, to sound the alarm that overdose is not just about people’s stereotypes of who a drug user is. it’s that he can hit anyone, ”she said. “It might hit you the first time you take cocaine at a wedding, you know there are these stories and we really wanted to make sure we took this back to school opportunity as a chance to let the young people know. be careful, that there are supports for them, and we just wanted them to have their eyes wide open for the dangers they might face with this time of celebration where things are opening up a bit and are on campus and together after a long time separated.

British Columbia Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson (photo provided).

As for how post-secondary students in particular are affected by drug toxicity, Malcolmson points out a few key factors, but also mentions that there are many supporters on campus.

“We know that there is a real circle of care on campus, whether it is through student unions or people helping each other, recognizing that many people are away from home for the first time,” says -she. “We want everyone to keep an extra eye if people make the decision to use drugs, urge them so strongly not to use drugs alone, not to hide their drug use, especially if they are faced with addiction issues, and if they choose to use on their own despite being cautious that there are tools, like the Lifeguard app which has been used extensively since we launched it about a year and a half ago, and we’re trying to meet people where they’re at, keep people safe, and do everything we can to separate people from this toxic drug supply. “

The overdose crisis and the toxicity of the drug supply aren’t the only crises BC residents are facing right now, of course. But even with the COVID-19 pandemic still strong, Malcolmson says it was important to bring this issue to the public eye now.

“We are in an unexplored era, between COVID and the tragic accelerated loss of life due to the overdose crisis, we just need to find new ways to break down the stigma and integrate it into people’s ordinary lives as a point of departure. conversation, ”she said. said. “It’s a health issue – we want people to see it as such and have these conversations that we open up. We look forward to feedback from students on the best ways to connect and get these messages across, and we may change this approach as we go.

The COVID-19 pandemic has actually worsened the drug toxicity crisis, Malcolmson says. She says when the borders closed, the illicit drug supply chain changed “dramatically and many drug traffickers ended up adopting their own home lab approach to the illicit drug trade.”

“This is part of the reason we have stepped up our safer prescribed supply,” she says, “so that people who are willing to work with a doctor or nurse practitioner are prescribed an alternative to these drugs. drug addicts that they can get a safe prescribed alternative that separates them from the toxic drug supply.

Malcolmson says she doesn’t expect a return to what it was before COVID closed the borders once things get back to normal, however.

“We are not counting on once the borders fully reopen the resellers returning to this international illicit supply,” she says, “and that is why we are really encouraging people to turn to the prescribed safe supply that gives them the chance to stabilize themselves, put their lives on a better track, and then we will have the opportunity to connect them to treatment, care and recovery. ”

Malcolmson says there are three main messages she would like post-secondary students to take away from the campaign.

“That everyone who uses drugs is at potential risk of drug toxicity overdose, of not using drugs alone and seeking the health care and safety supports available,” she said.

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