“I don’t want to go to any more funerals for people who should still be here”
To the Expositor:
I would like to thank The Expositor for last week’s editorial about the opiate epidemic (‘People are dying while Queen’s Park fiddles,’ September 5, Page 4). While I love Manitoulin, I am frequently dismayed and disgusted by people’s opinions here regarding the stigma of drug use. It was nice to see that our local paper recognizes that this is an epidemic and that preventing supervised injection sites is not the solution.
Over the last five years newer, cheaper and more potent drugs have made their way to every part of Canada (small towns are not excluded).
I have been to supervised injection sites and I participated in the creation of the first one in Ontario. Supervised injection sites are not just a bunch of drug users getting high together. They are staffed by nurses and doctors. They are meticulously clean and orderly. When you go into one you will wait in line much like going to a hospital or clinic. They check you in and along with asking you some standard questions about your use they also ask you whether you are in need of any services such as housing, rehab, counselling, etc and they can help you access those services. Next they escort you to a little cubical and provide you with clean supplies. At this point they will also test your drugs to make sure that they are in fact what you hope they are (this alone saves countless people from ingesting non-ingestible substances). While you are using, a nurse is present with naloxone ready should someone need it. Naloxone is not like in the movie ‘Pulp Fiction,’ it does not make people violent. It is not addictive and you cannot get high from it, it blocks the receptors in your brain that opiates fill. If you have not taken any opiates and you are dosed with naloxone it has no effect on the person. You also cannot “overdose” from taking naloxone. I have saved several people by administering it. There is no reason not to carry it.
As far as the numbers of victims, you might not care, but let this sink in: in the last two years I have lost 14 close friends. That is not including acquaintances. Including acquaintances it is closer to 27. It is at the point where when I try and count who is gone I am now forgetting people. Have you lost that many friends in that short a time to any other cause? Even to cancer it would be unusual to lose that many. There is a massive seven foot tall statue in Toronto to commemorate victims of the opiate crisis in recent years they have had to add additional pieces to it because there is no more room for names. The names are in size 14 font (that’s less than a cm high).
August 31st was International Overdose Awareness Day. I’m not big on ribbons for causes but other people close to me are, so my son and I wore the purple ribbons associated with overdose awareness. Along with the purple ribbon I wore a bandana that I wear very rarely. Instead of wearing it I normally keep it on a shelf, in a bag, with my best friend’s ashes. No one should ever have to keep their best friend on their shelf. While out doing chores I was approached by a woman asking about the ribbons. I explained their significance. I was very taken aback to have her demand that I remove it “because purple is for lupus, which is an actual cause.” There are many causes in the world and even more shades of purple.
I’m not asking you to change your opinion on whether addiction is a disease or choice, that is not important. I’m asking for you to realize that these are people’s lives and this is a crisis. I don’t want to go to anymore funerals for people who should still be here. I don’t want to worry about checking my email and seeing who died today. These people who are dying are not degenerate scum. They are someone’s someone and that someone misses them more than you could ever know. Supervised injection sites and naloxone save lives. Even if you don’t think those lives are worth saving, I do.