The provincial government has taken another step to protect postsecondary students from illicit and potentially lethal drugs.
The BC government announced that it was extending its Toxic Drugs Are Circulating campaign on Thursday, September 9. The campaign ran provincewide in August, but it will now specifically target students on university and college campuses across BC. The campaign seeks to provide a barrier between students and the drug supply that is ever-increasingly cut with lethal drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil.
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson explained: “For a number of years, our government has been ringing the alarm on the risk of overdose deaths from the toxic illicit drug supply. It’s particularly important right now, though, with this time of coming back to campus. People are away from home, they might be experimenting with any kind of recreational drugs … We want them to have their eyes wide open, and we want to connect them to the supports … that will make them safer with that choice.”
According to the BC Coroner’s Service, around 7,760 people have lost their lives to drug overdoses between January 2016 and June 2021. Around 1,733 people died in 2020, and at least 1,011 people died of overdoses in the first half of 2021.
Most overdoses took place in private residences when the victims were alone, with the majority of victims being male. Over 1,200 people under the age of 29 died from an overdose in the past five years. It’s unclear how many were enrolled in postsecondary education.
Malcolmson stressed that the risk of overdose deaths has increased and that the supply has become more toxic—cut with potentially lethal substances—during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also added that more deaths are occurring through inhaling the drugs rather than injecting them.
The Toxic Drugs Are Circulating campaign includes a number of resources aimed at helping students who witness an overdose and those who may find themselves using drugs:
StopOverdoseBC.ca has information on recognizing signs of an overdose and where to get help and treatment. Naloxone training and kits are also available through this site and on university campuses.
Here2Talk is a provincewide counselling service that runs 24/7. Postsecondary students can access counselling over the phone, through text, or through chat.
The Lifeguard App is designed for people who take illicit drugs alone. It sets a timer and, if time runs out before the person can respond, calls 9-1-1. The app also has information on where users can get their drugs tested.
The Foundry BC App began as the Foundry Centres, physical centres aimed at people between the ages of 12 and 24. Youth could access counselling, reproductive services, and other supports at these locations. It is now available in a virtual format.
The social media campaign will be distributed evenly across the province. The implementation of the measures will vary depending on the campus.
Malcolmson expressed her gratitude to those on campus who are involved in the campaign and who are educating students on how to stay safe and alive.