‘People are afraid’: Why some Canadians don’t call 911 during an overdose
The aim of Canada’s newest drug law, The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, is to ease the minds of people dealing with an overdose situation that could potentially lead to death.
“People are afraid that they’re going to get charged, [because of] paraphernalia and stuff like that laying around,” said April Horne, a young Halifax woman who says she’s seen many friends die due to drug overdoses.
According to Health Canada, many people are hesitant to call for emergency assistance during overdoses because of fear that legal consequences may follow.
“I have seen that, where people won’t call EHS (Emergency Health Services), won’t call police because they’re fearful of being charged with possession,” said Staff Sgt. Darrell Gaudet, an officer with Halifax Regional Police.
The new law protects people from being charged for breaching minor conditions under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act.
Those conditions include: parole, pre-trial release, probation orders, simple possession and conditional sentences.
People may still be charged if police are called to an overdose where more serious offences occur, such as outstanding warrants, production and trafficking of controlled substances and all other crimes not outlined within the act.
It’s a new piece of federal legislation that Gaudet believes will play an important role in how people respond to overdoses.
“People that are in high-risk situations, they can now call the police if someone with them overdoses, or they themselves overdoses, on an illicit substance,” he said.
Opioid addiction and overdose has been a long-standing issue in Nova Scotia, according to Dr. Robert Strang, the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
He said the new law is part of a continued national effort aimed at addressing the public health crisis.
“This is one piece, but the whole opioid issue is complex and there’s many, many things that have to be put in place. This change in federal legislation is an important piece and is one more step forward,” Strang said.
Last year, 81 people died from drug overdoses in the province, 54 of those deaths involved opioids.
The statistics come from the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Services and show that 39 of the 81 overdose deaths occurred in the Central part of the province.
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