Andrea Rondeau column: Drug users should not be left to die

The thing is, nothing they have done deserves a death sentence.

Part of my job, as those who read this column regularly will know, is to read through reader comments on our website and Facebook page.

It was a depressing job earlier this week after we posted a story about North Cowichan councillors taking the time to learn how to administer naloxone.

Naloxone is a drug that neutralizes the effects of fentanyl, and is essentially able to immediately pull overdose victims back into the land of the living. Without it, we would be talking about many more deaths from opioid overdose than we already are. Various agencies and health centres will give out naloxone kits to anyone who wants them. We have one here at the Citizen office, obtained for us by reporter Robert Barron when he went to an open house at the overdose prevention site in Duncan.

I thought this was hardly a controversial story: councillors learning how to do their part if they see someone overdosing. It does speak to the extent of the opioid crisis in our community, and to some extent our local governments are already on the front lines. As residents grapple with crime, discarded needles and disruptive behaviour in their neighbourhoods, they turn to our local councils to do something about it.

So, a nice story about our elected officials wanting to be prepared, right?

I was expecting the comments about the general state of the drug and homelessness crises in our region. These are absolutely key problems that we are facing, which only seem to be getting more severe, not less.

But I was disheartened, discouraged, and somewhat horrified by the number of people replying that our council learning how to reverse fatal overdoses is a waste of time and money, and that they should just let people die. Oh, these commenters usually phrase it as drug users should “face the consequences of their choices”, but what they are saying, when they say an overdose victim should be ignored, is that these drug users should be left to die.

What a grotesque self-centredness. If they die you won’t have to deal with them anymore.

I get it, many drug users are not terribly sympathetic on first glance. At least not the really visible ones on the streets of Duncan (I think these commenters would be surprised by the number of seemingly ordinary people who use behind closed doors). They may be unkempt. They may be aggressive. They may have committed crimes in pursuit of money to support their addiction. Those who are not addicted cannot fathom why these folks cannot just stop.

The thing is, nothing they have done deserves a death sentence. When they’re dead, that’s truly when there is no hope. We would be a pretty hopeless and twisted society if we stop trying to save people. The first step is keeping them breathing.

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