Tom Fletcher/Black Press Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C. Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe and Clayton Pecknold, B.C.’s director of police services, discuss the opioid overdose crisis that has spread from the West Coast across North America this year.

BC Coroner: Scare tactics less effective in overdose crisis

Chief coroner jumps into the debate on how to deal with overdose crisis

By Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner, BC Coroners Service

The illicit drug overdose crisis has taken over 2,000 lives in British Columbia since January 2016, and the province is likely to surpass the 1,500 mark for deaths in 2017 alone.

Too many valued lives are being lost, and that’s why the BC Coroners Service is working collaboratively with a number of partners across the province and the country to find meaningful ways to reduce the tragic number of deaths in our communities.

Recent media coverage has indicated that a B.C. funeral-services company has developed a public-awareness campaign to highlight the danger of opioids, targeting youth and teens, with an event planned to include a “more visceral, emotional experience.” The coverage indicated that coroners would be participating.

While we acknowledge the importance of public education and awareness, the BC Coroners Service does not endorse, and will not be participating in, fear-based initiatives. Evidence suggests that the reasons for drug use are complex and multifaceted, and programs focused on scaring people from using drugs, are not effective in saving lives. Additionally, they tend to increase the stigma surrounding drug use and actually discourage people from seeking help – an obsolete approach that has led to the loss of countless lives.

The BC Centre on Substance Use recently provided some research on universal substance use prevention, pulling together a number of different academic studies. Among key findings was that mass media campaigns and public service announcements showed no evidence of effectiveness while interactive, skills-based approaches showed positive results, with targeted approaches being especially effective. This is why timely, accurate data from coroners’ investigations is so important; allowing our health partners to inform evidence-based initiatives. With data showing that most of those dying from overdoses are using alone, health authorities and service providers can innovate targeted strategies aimed at saving lives.

We also know that image-use needs to be very strategic in awareness campaigns. For example, those with lived experience tell us that images featuring drug paraphernalia can act as a trigger, resulting in the desire to use and causing more harm. We also know that periods of abstinence result in reduced tolerance; putting drug users at higher risk for death.

In the United States, the ‘Just Say No’ and D.A.R.E. campaigns produced poor results. It has many people in that country worried about a massive advertising campaign promised as part of their federal government’s response to what is being described as at the worst drug crisis in American history and the deaths of almost 100 people every day. According to the Associated Press, between 1998 and 2004, the U.S. government spent nearly $1 billion on a national campaign designed to discourage the use of illegal drugs among young people. However, a 2008 follow-up study funded by the National Institutes of Health found the campaign to have no positive effects on youth behaviour and may have, in fact, prompted some to actually experiment with using substances.

A 2004 Canadian Transportation Research Forum study recommended that policy-makers and advertisers focus more on providing their target audiences with a number of strategies to cope with the threat they are trying to address, rather than increasing the level of threat or fear arousal in the advertisements.

The experiences and life situations of people who use drugs, as well as the physiological changes they experience, means they might not be ready or able to engage with the overdose prevention strategies suggested in the some of the ads that currently exist. We need to be aware of peoples’ realities and be realistic about what change they are capable of for the stage they are at in their lives. In the long run, compassion and support, including prescribed medical treatment where appropriate, will be much more effective in turning this crisis around than fear and shame.

Let’s have the courage to step out of our comfort zones to save lives.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Wildfire northwest of Kamloops jumps to 1,600 hectares overnight

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 1,600 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Record cherry crop anticipated

BC Tree Fruit growers expecting crop of 12 million pounds due to ideal conditions

City of Kelowna to consider council pay hike to offset loss of tax-free allowance

Move could see mayor get and $11,830 pay hike and councillors a $3,050 increase

Kelowna residents to honour the dead with walk of memories

The walk will honour each phase of life

Update: Wildfire northwest of Kamloops jumps from 60 to 800 hectares

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 800 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Black Press Media to launch Pipeline Full of Controversy series

Series covers Trans Mountain’s history, science, Indigenous reaction, politics and economics

Canucks sign top prospect Elias Pettersson to entry-level deal

Slick centre drafted No. 5 overall in 2017 NHL draft

Former B.C. police chief dies in ATV accident

Ex-Nelson top cop began his career in Vancouver

Hergott: A misunderstanding about our rights

Lawyer Paul Hergott writes about a recent small claims decision and the misunderstanding about our rights

Referendum in Ireland would repeal strict ban on abortion

Voters throughout Ireland have begun casting votes in a referendum that may lead to a loosening of the country’s strict ban on most abortions.

Lava from Hawaii volcano enters ocean from 3 flows

The Kilauea volcano has been gushing lava on the big island of Hawaii for the past three weeks.

Summit talk turns warmer; Trump says ‘talking to them now’

North Korea issued a statement saying it was still “willing to give the U.S. time and opportunities” to reconsider talks

Harvey Weinstein turns himself in, arraigned on rape, criminal charges

Harvey Weinstein arraigned on rape, criminal sex act charges following allegations of sexual misconduct

Explosion at Mississauga restaurant sends 15 to hospital

Hunt underway for two suspects connected to Mississauga, Ont., blast

Most Read