The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's Windsor office. (Photo by Alexandra Latremouille)

Overdose Awareness Day Chance To Change Minds

For Byron Klingbyle at the AIDS Committee of Windsor International Overdose Awareness Day, being observed globally on August 31, is an opportunity to change the conversation around drug addiction.

He feels there is a harmful stigma that sees the drug addicted as less worthy of help.

“That’s what irks me the most because a lot of people will say, ‘You know what? He’s a drug addict. Good riddance,'” says Klingbyle. “But, you know what? Their family is not thinking that. It doesn’t mean just because they’re addicted to drugs their family members don’t love them.”

The AIDS Committee along with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit are aiming to raise awareness around the issue through a mobile app and staff outreach.

A key message of the outreach — and something Klingbyle swears by — is the life saving power of naloxone kits.

“No one needs to die from an opioid overdose. There’s no reason for it,” says Klingbyle.

Naloxone can reverse the symptoms of an overdose, allowing more time for the person suffering the overdose to get medical attention. The kits and training to administer the drug are free for those who are opioid dependent, 18 years old and live in Ontario. The health unit and the committee provide weekly prevention and naloxone clinics.

The drug was only reclassified in Ontario this summer as a drug that could be sold without a prescription. The move was made by the province to try to combat opioid addiction and the risks of overdose.

Klingbyle adds a common misconception around the issue of drug overdose is that only intravenous drug users overdose when in fact it’s not uncommon for people taking prescription pain medication or alcohol to overdose as well. The health unit also outlines other substances like depressants, stimulants and psychoactive substances as potential causes of overdose.

In 2014 there were 18 overdose deaths in Windsor-Essex related to opioids and alcohol. In 2013, there were 33.