How Many Deaths Have Been Prevented by Harm Reduction?

July 3, 2019. Article by: Government of BC

Researchers at the BC Centre for Disease Control found that harm reduction services may have stopped more than 3,000 overdose deaths (PDF) in B.C. between April 2016 – December 2017.

Three major harm reduction steps have been taken since April 2016 when the Province first declared an official public health emergency due to the number of overdose deaths:

  1. Expanding the Take Home Naloxone program, which provides people with training and naloxone kits to respond to overdoses.
  2. Creating more overdose prevention sites and supervised consumption sites.
  3. Giving people with opioid use disorder better access to opioid agonist therapy.

Dr. Mike Irvine, one of the researchers who looked how these steps helped protect people at risk of overdose, says they have had a significant impact – the Take Home Naloxone program alone helped prevent more than 1,500 overdose deaths in the study period.  

“Without these steps, there would have been many more overdose deaths,” says Mike. “These harm reduction services decreased the chance of death from accidental overdose, despite there being a highly toxic drug supply in B.C.”

Three to four people die from overdose each day in B.C. However, the BCCDC research shows that harm reduction services are working to save lives.  

The research shows that a full range of supports –overdose response and prevention, supervised consumption sites and treatment services – all have an important role in helping people on their journey of hope, healing and recovery.

And it shows that the steps taken to respond to the overdose crisis are helping protect people.

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