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Community Gathers to Recognize Overdose in Thunder Bay
Date: August 31, 2017

August 31, 2017 – Today, on International Overdose Awareness Day, a ceremony was held to raise awareness of overdose in Thunder Bay and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. The ceremony at the entrance to Kam River Park saw participants wear silver and purple ribbons of support and tie ribbons onto a memorial tree in remembrance. The tree, and an accompanying plaque, were installed by the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy recognizing those who have died by overdose.

"We would like to acknowledge the grief of families and friends remembering those who have died or been injured as a result of drug overdose," said Cynthia Olsen, Coordinator – Thunder Bay Drug Strategy. “The more we talk about it, the more we can reduce stigma and support people in our community. Overdose Day send a message to people who have used or are currently using substances that they are valued.”

In Thunder Bay, the most common cause of overdose death is due to opioids. “Unfortunately, many patients who take prescription opioids see themselves at low risk for overdose, but the risk is there,” added Olsen. According to a report by the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, 16 per cent of residents in the Thunder Bay District were prescribed an opioid in 2016, with 63 individuals dying from opioid overdose between July 2013 and June 2016.

Opioids include a broad range of medicines related to morphine and are frequently prescribed to relieve pain. In Ontario, one person dies every eight hours from a drug overdose, and more than two people a day are dying due to opioid overdoses. Over 80 per cent of opioid related deaths in Ontario were accidental.

Opioid overdoses can be reversed with the administration of naloxone. Naloxone only works with opioids and has no effect on the body if opioids are not present.

"Having a naloxone kit available could mean the difference between life and death," said Rick Thompson, Thunder Bay District Health Unit's Superior Points Harm Reduction Program. “Our program can provide free training and kits to residents. There are also many pharmacies which offer the supplies at no cost through the Ontario Naloxone Pharmacy Program." Thompson encourages anyone wanting more information to contact Superior Points at 625-5900.

The Thunder Bay Drug Strategy invites the community to their next upcoming gathering at Rockin’ Recovery on Sept. 13, at Marina Park to celebrate the path of recovery and hear stories of success.

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Contact: Cynthia Olsen, Coordinator – Thunder Bay Drug Strategy, 625-2942