3 out of 4 Canadians say they’re aware of the opioid crisis, advocates say it’s not enough

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Overdose prevention plan
With drug deaths in B.C. at record levels, the province has announced new measures aimed at saving lives including the launch of a specialized drug-checking machine. Nadia Stewart reports – Nov 10, 2017

Canadians may be more aware of the opioid crisis than ever, but for volunteers and advocates who see the crisis take its toll every day, awareness is not enough.

Statistics Canada says it has found 77 per cent of adult Canadians say they’re either “very” or “somewhat” aware of the rampant opioid addiction problem.

But Jordan Westfall, president of the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, said he believes most Canadians think addiction is an issue that only affects other people.

“I think that it does show that awareness of the epidemic itself is very high, but I think that those results also show that there is still that sense of ‘othering,’ that ‘no one in my family’ is using opioids,” he said.

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“There is an awareness of it, but there’s also a massive amount of disconnect.”

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WATCH: Frontline workers experiencing stress, trauma amid overdose crisis

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Opioid crisis front line workers

According to Westfall, there needs to be more face-to-face contact between drug users, the general public, politicians and policy makers, “so that people can understand what this is actually all about.”

According to Statistics Canada, 28 per cent of Canadians said they would be able to recognize the signs of an overdose, while about seven per cent said they would know how to obtain and use naloxone.

Nearly 30 per cent of Canadians reported using some form of opioids in the last five years, and about one in four Canadians said they had leftover opioids in their home.

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Awareness of the opioid issue was highest in B.C., followed by Alberta and the Atlantic provinces.

More than 2,000 people have fatally overdosed in B.C. in the last two years.

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