The London Police Service recently announced the arrival of carfentanil in London. Two drug samples have tested positive for an opioid that is about 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
And more potency means more overdoses. Just a few grains of the salt-like substance are lethal. If you thought the numbers for opioid deaths and overdoses in London were horrible enough already, they’re about to get much worse.
Hearing this news brings me back to one warm September night. I was waiting at my Dundas and Richmond bus stop late at night when I saw a piece of paper taped up next to the fast food order window.
“Speak your mind about the opioids and doctors treating us like dirt because were prescribed narcotics. Today at city hall u can do that, 4pm they are having a resolution meeting on the issue. You want them to no how you feel? Be there. Fentanyl is killing our friends and love 1s, spiked meth etc. Sept 18 city hall.”
Of course, I’ve heard about the opioid and fentanyl crisis in London. I’ve skimmed through the news articles and headlines. But for me, this note really humanized the situation.
It referred to a September meeting to install a working council to address the opioid crisis in London. The council includes London Police, the London InterCommunity Health Center, and the London Health Unit, among others.
But I see this as a direct cry for help from those most affected by this, right now. As a yearning to be recognized, legitimized. To show Londoners that the people affected by the fentanyl and opioid epidemic have a voice, and they’re not going to just sit around and wait. It’s from the mouths of those whose voices need to be heard. From the people living with opioid addictions in the streets of London.
If you want first-hand experience with the realities of London’s opioid crisis, spend 15 minutes in front of the McDonalds at the corner of Dundas and Richmond. I’ll bet you’ll hear at least one reference to fentanyl, be it a covert inquiry to whether someone has patches or not or a flat-out discussion about the opioid.
This letter tells us one thing – people are upset and want change. They want to be acknowledged. But what can you do as a citizen of London to make that happen?
As it turns out, quite a bit.
Call your reps.
Give your local member of parliament a call. Heck, call your MPP while you’re at it. Call Matt Brown. Send them an email too, because sometimes calling can be a bit stressful. I know, it’s the cliché response to any large societal issue. But this is an issue that can only be solved with the resources and knowledge of all levels of government. Call them and ask them what they’re doing to address the opioid crisis. Tell them that you care.
The gears are turning already: in late August, the Ministry of Health announced they’d be devoting $220 million to preventing opioid addiction and overdose.
London’s newly formed opioid council aims to bring opioid users into the conversation and develop a safe-injection site.
But knowing that you’re being held accountable by your constituents (and people who care enough to vote) should give motivation.
Learn how to help with Naloxone
Did you know that it takes about 28 minutes and zero dollars to pick up a Naloxone kit from your local pharmacist? This Fuse post will give you all the details. It’s a painless process that could end up saving someone’s life.
Naloxone is a drug that can be used to temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. It’s enough for the recipient to survive on their way to the hospital for further treatment.
Go and get one today. If you don’t feel comfortable using it, there’s probably someone around you who will in a crisis.
Keep an open mind and help when you can
The note above is evocative enough – it reminds us that the 412 people who died in the first six months of 2016 were just that: people. They had friends, family, and loved ones. It sounds like an obvious statement, but I think it’s one that needs to be thought about more often.
This note shows us that marginalized users are scared. They’re scared for themselves and for those that they care about. But it also shows that they’re not afraid to let their voices be heard.
We should be doing everything and anything we can to inform Londoners about the fentanyl crisis. Let’s include drug users in the conversation and show them that they’re right to want their friends and family to live.
People push when they’re backed up against a wall, when they have nothing else to lose. Let’s empower these folks and show them that they’re worth fighting for.