Safer Substance Use: Axe and Looking out for Friends

January 8, 2020. Article by: Government of BC

Axe is like a lot of young guys. He went to college. He works in the trades. He’s connected to his family.

Axe also uses substances.

“I started smoking weed in Grade 10 with a couple friends,” Axe says. “Eventually I got curious, and one thing led to another. First smoking weed, then doing MDMA and cocaine.”

Axe continued using substances as he got older. He mostly uses cocaine – mostly in social situations.

“Generally, I use drugs with friends, but from time to time I’ll use alone after a night out or on the weekend,” Axe goes on.

Axe’s experience shows a different side of the overdose emergency. Many people believe that drug overdoses only affect people who live with addiction or who live on the streets.

However, people who use substances recreationally – like Axe and his friends – are also at risk.

 “A close friend of mine overdosed and died,” Axe says.

We always think: is this the batch that could kill us?

Taking steps to be safer

Axe and his friends try to reduce the risks of using substances by following some simple steps around safer substance use and knowing how to reverse an overdose. 

We’ll say to each other; ‘Don’t do it alone!’ I have one friend who had Naloxone training. That’s pretty cool. Being safe and looking out for your friends is a very cool thing.

But Axe still sees how stigma of substance use, and pressure not to appear weak, can stop men from reaching out for help.

“Guys don’t like to talk about it, though” he reflects. “They like to protect their ego.”

The importance of conversations

Axe sees a lot of substance use in his work in construction. His experience at work reflects research showing that people working in the trades and transport industries are affected more than others by the overdose emergency.

But work is also a source of support for Axe.

“What helps is that my boss is very open about this stuff,” Axe says. “He’s not just a boss, but a friend.”

“There was a time he had a talk with me and asked me how I was doing…He suggested that I slow down. He doesn’t make it too serious.”

Like Axe’s boss, anyone can play an important role in supporting someone who uses substances. Open, honest conversations about substance use can help reduce stigma, show people that others care about them, and that it’s OK to ask for support if they need it.

He’s being a friend and that’s a true help.

Do you or someone you know need help?  

Call 8-1-1 for information on recovery and addiction treatment services in your area or to speak to a registered nurse or pharmacist.

Search for services in B.C. using the Mental Health and Substance Use Service Map.

Axe shared his story in the Behind the Numbers research project, in which people with lived experience using drugs and healthcare service providers offered their perspectives to help further understanding of substance use and addiction in B.C. Learn more about the Behind the Numbers project and read the stories book.