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Impact Stories

Awareness, compassion, and care: the keys to reducing stigma for people who use drugs

United Way BC – Southern Interior attended the Penticton International Drug Poisoning Awareness Day on Aug 31st

Did you know that in Penticton, over ten people have lost their lives to drug poisonings only this year? In BC, 1,095 people died from an accidental overdose, the highest record in the first six months of a calendar year. In 2021, there was another sad record-setting: 2,264 deaths.*

On August 31st, United Way BC – Southern Interior attended the Penticton International Drug Poisoning Awareness Day. Organized by Penticton and Area Overdose Prevention Society, in partnership with Penticton Indian Band and the City of Penticton, the event brought together local community agencies, families and individuals to share memories of loved ones lost to the current health crisis in BC.

Naomi Woodland, Regional Community Impact & Investment Coordinator

Unfortunately, drug supplies are usually mixed with other substances in unidentified concentrations, significantly impacting the risks to users. They often administer substances in unknown amounts, which can cause traumatic brain injuries or even stop breathing and the heart. The drug supply is increasing in toxicity, the drugs are more addictive, and the side effects are more adverse.

The reasons for drug use are diverse as each person’s journey is different, but generally, many people who use drugs have experienced trauma, violence, sexual assault, impacts of genocide, and a lack of care from people in their lives. Reducing stigma for people who use drugs is vital in helping them move to a place of healing, and providing care is crucial to reducing the number of people dying in these situations.

Awareness, compassion, and care are the three ingredients our communities need to heal from these devastating consequences.

Penticton and Area Overdose Prevention Society’s team members

*Source: https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/bc-records-highest-number-overdose-deaths-first-half-2022).