We need to talk about overdose
The war on drugs is killing people. Accidental drug-related deaths in Australia have increased by 52% over the past 15 years — 1,489 people died in 2015. In comparison, 712 people died in car accidents, two people were killed by sharks and 271 by drownings — with very different legislative and funding responses.
Why are we losing so many of our friends, our family, so many good people? Why do we feel obliged to hide our use, to use alone, to not reach out to friends or health professionals? Because drugs use is “an evil”, a “scourge”. There is no doubt that drug use devastates many people’s lives, but it’s impossible to separate the harm caused by the war on drugs from the harm caused by drugs.
How do we win the war? The answer for us, as people who use drugs, is to support each other, to form the resistance. Yes, we need to work with government to increase the availability of naloxone, we need to work with our allies on the bigger task of drug law reform, but first and foremost we need to look after each other.
Around the world, peers are saving lives. We are distributing naloxone. We are setting up and running safe injecting facilities or providing each other with safe injecting spaces. We are distributing sterile equipment, we are checking our drugs, looking after our mates, passing on information. We are the resistance and the lives we save are in spite of the restrictions our work — laws that target drug users and the prioritisation of medical models over peer support.
Last year, over 2,500 people died from fentanyl overdoses in Canada. The government response has been slow. Peers and allies have set up unregulated safe spaces in response that have in turn been supported by the police and the provincial government. Ontario has since announced C$222 million to fight the crisis. This funding was brought about by the relentlessness of activists, this is what we can accomplish together.
Let’s not wait for the crisis to reach this point in NSW. The NSW Government must find a way to fast track the delivery of naloxone. Workable peer delivery models are in place across North America and Europe, we can do it here. We need to look at the regulatory barriers that limit access to naloxone and why this life-saving drug, which is out of patent, is so expensive to purchase except on prescription. We need to support pill checking at music Festivals and events, another initiative that is in place across the world.
We can’t keep lagging behind and watching our friends die, we need to fight for those we love.
Click here to watch NUAA Overdose Videos Terry’s Story and Other Overdose Stories
Click here to download NUAA overdose resources Overdose Resources