Island Health launches campaign to support men who use substances

Island Health has launched a campaign targeting men to raise awareness of the range of services available to help people stay safer when using drugs and prevent overdoses caused by the toxic illicit drug supply. 

Tragically, in 2021 alone the toxic drug crisis claimed the lives of 327 Island Health residents. The majority of overdose deaths are among men aged 30-59 years – and many are preventable. Island Health works with partners to promote a range of harm reduction services that meet people where they’re at. More information on staying safer when using drugs can be found on Island Health’s Overdose Prevention Services page.

“Men who use alone continue to be at the greatest risk from toxic drug poisonings. These are our fathers, brothers, sons and friends,” says Dr. Sandra Allison, a Medical Health Officer at Island Health. “We want them to know that there are services available that can help them stay safer, stay alive and connect them with whatever support they may need.”

Most drug poisoning deaths occur in private residences. People use drugs alone for a variety of reasons, including privacy and avoiding stigma. Using alone puts people at a higher risk of death from accidental overdose since their ability to seek help diminishes greatly. Safe environments for people to consume, along with creative tools for those who use at home alone, helps save lives. 

There are ways for people to stay safer when they use drugs. This includes consuming in the presence of someone who can administer naloxone or call for help if needed, testing drugs first and using a small amount to start. When using alone, free and confidential options that connect you to support and response services include the Lifeguard app, Brave app and National Overdose Response Service hotline (1-888-688 NORS [6677]). Many communities also have overdose prevention or supervised consumption sites where people can use in the presence of a qualified responder if an overdose occurs (no drug-poisoning deaths have been reported at these sites).

British Columbia has experienced an unacceptable number of drug poisoning events and deaths since this public health emergency was declared in 2016. Since then, more than 9,227 British Columbians have lost their lives to drug poisonings (data until January 2022). This is more deaths than from car crashes, suicides and homicides combined. Drug poisoning deaths are the leading cause of unnatural death in the province and have contributed to a decrease in life expectancy. 

Island Health’s four-week campaign will be featured on the radio, social media, digital channels and display ads in bus shelters.

Looking for more information? 

  • Visit Island Health’s Overdose Prevention Services page 
  • Call BC Alcohol and Drug Information Referral Services, a free, multilingual telephone assistance available 24/7: 1-800-663-1441
  • Help stop the stigma: