The eighth annual International Overdose Awareness Day was observed in Halifax on Tuesday.
Dozens of people gathered at Direction 180 and walked to the Halifax Commons in silence to commemorate those who have died from accidental drug poisonings.
Direction 180 collaborated with Mainline and The Substance User Network of the Atlantic Region to host the event, which concluded with a BBQ.
This year was Melanie Oldham’s second time taking part in the event. She lost her 25-year old sister to a fentanyl overdose two years ago.
The loss has been excruciating for Oldham and her family and she says it has made her think about her own life decisions. Being someone with life experience, she decided to seek help for herself, recognizing that using substances was not beneficial to her.
“I’m in recovery now. I’ve been clean for four months,” she said.
Thunderbird Swooping Down Woman, who is in recovery, came out to show her support and give gratitude to Direction 180 who she says helped her and other substance users immensely.
“I’m here to let people know that addiction doesn’t discriminate, period. It affects us all. For me this is like a healing walk for the addict who still suffers.”
Paula Martin, program manager at Direction 180 says over the past two years, due to the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, accidental overdoses in the province have increased. So far in 2021, 46 fatal drug poisonings have occurred.
In the midst of an opioid crisis, the pandemic has made things worse, she said.
“It has increased the risk among people who use substances to use alone. And when people use alone, if something does happen whereby the are in an instance where drug poisoning or overdose occurs, there is no one there to assist them.” said Martin.
“There shouldn’t be shame or stigma associated with an accidental drug poisoning. People don’t intentionally try to take their own lives.”