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BC OVERDOSE ACTION EXCHANGE – JUNE 9, 2016

OVERDOSE IMPACT
Prepared by: mumsDU-moms united and mandated to saving the lives of Drug Users
Jennifer Woodside for her son Dylan, DOD April 4, 2014

Donna May for her daughter Jac, DOD August 21, 2012

Describing the impact that overdose has on families and communities

BACKGROUND
Significant impact is experienced by each family member, loved one, employer and co-worker, the
community and country every time an overdose (OD) or death by overdose (DBO) occurs. That impact
begins with substance use disorder (SUD), deepens with each OD and continues for years and
generations after a DBO. Each life that is lost not only represents an immeasurable loss of potential and
the loss of loved one’s hopes, but also depletes the ability for those left behind to cope as they were
once accustomed to among society.
Anticipatory impact of a DBO is realized as the loss of relationship, burial costs, hospital expenses, debts
incurred on ineffective rehabilitation, loss of household income, loss of productivity in the home
workplace and schoolroom, for each person affected, for as much time as is needed to grieve and
regroup into a new sense of norm.
Sustained impact occurs when an OD takes place but does not result in either recovery or death, but
instead leaves our loved one in a coma or physically/mentally impaired. When an OD results in a coma,
family often have the difficult choice of whether or not to sustain a loved one on life support until they
die naturally. A prolonged state of hyper-alertness while waiting and wondering what is to come can be
taxing and takes a physical, mental and financial toll that is absorbed by all. When OD impairment can
be treated within the home, caregiving often becomes a family member’s responsibility. Caring for a
person in this state, who also has SUD, requires patience, tolerance, and the understanding of where a
loved one’s belligerence, and sometimes violent, behaviour is really coming from as they go into
withdrawal. The weight of these responsibilities can be overwhelming and all-consuming even for the
hardiest and most compassionate person. Families frequently implode under this tremendous pressure.
Separate and distinct from the anticipatory and sustained impact are the ambiguous impacts of a DBO.
Ambiguous costs of experiencing a loved one’s SUD and DBO are realized as stress, a sense of shame or
failure, survivor’s guilt and a feeling of emotional paralysis. Often, for those left behind after a DBO,
existence becomes dependant on community, provincial and federal resources for their economic,
mental and physical wellbeing. Absent of a socially responsible role model for children to emulate, the
impact of a DBO can, and often does, become generational.

Presented by:

OFFICE OF THE PROVINCIAL HEALTH OFFICER OF BC | BC CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL | BC CORONERS SERVICE

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BC OVERDOSE ACTION EXCHANGE – JUNE 9, 2016

Whether it be the anticipatory, sustained, ambiguous or generational costs, SUD and DBO can be
classified as a communicable disease that impacts all of society in a substantial way.
Scope of impact of SUD and DBO unknown
Recent stats supporting BC’s declaration of a public health emergency and the reports that DBO is up
88.2% over the same four-month period of the previous year, are statistics which relate only to the
number of DBOs that have occurred. These statistics do not reveal the totality and the compounded
consequences experienced by families and community before, during and after a DBO. A matrix that
measures the consequences of a SUD or DBO has not yet been developed.

BARRIERS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Stigma and shame associated with SUD and DBO continues to reflect the ignorance and misinformation
of addiction and is endured by loved ones long after a DBO occurs. SUD and DBO remains a topic that is
taboo even among family members. Discussions on the subject can be greatly impeded by one’s level of
social stature in fear of any association with the disorder. Misunderstanding SUD and DBO has been
responsible for keeping the topic off the table and suspended in dogmatic nonsense, by our policy
makers, for years. Without an educational intervention we may never ascertain the true breadth of the
affects of this disease.
Grief specific to DBO is proliferated by the fact that SUD is not understood even by professionals in the
medical and mental healthcare practice. While bereavement groups can empathize with diseases and
accidents that have taken their loved ones, however, that same empathy does not extend to someone
whose loss is DBO as SUD remains to be seen as a willful behavior.
Areas that Require Action
1.
SUD and DBO needs to be taken out of the closet and talked about openly and in an informed
manner at every opportunity.
2.
Preparation and implementation of a provincial media campaign(s), similar to recent mental
health campaigns, directed to reveal the underlying causes, effective treatment models for SUD and the
real cost of SUD and DBO on society.
3.
Budgeting for an upsurge in health and social care for those who have endured either the SUD
or DBO of a loved one must be addressed.
4.
Development and implementation of a standardized provincial matrix to measure the
consequences of a SUD or DBO.
Lead Responsibility
Federal, Provincial and Community Health, Mental Wellness and Social Care Authorities

Presented by:

OFFICE OF THE PROVINCIAL HEALTH OFFICER OF BC | BC CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL | BC CORONERS SERVICE

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