There is a Story Behind Every Statistic

November 8, 2018. Article by: Government of BC

“Our son died in April 2017. He was 1 out of 123 overdose deaths that month. But we don’t want him to be a number.” - Parents of Ryan. 

In 2017, 1,451 people died of an overdose in BC. Most of these people died while using drugs alone. 

Like everyone who uses substances, the people who died each had a unique story. Understanding their experiences and listening to those of others living with addiction is essential to addressing the overdose crisis in BC. 

In the Behind the Numbers project, these stories and experiences guided the conversation about what leads someone to use drugs alone and how to improve supports and services for people living with addiction in BC. For the first-time, people with lived experience played a lead role in shaping a government response to this kind of public health emergency. The project provides essential first-hand insights into ways to create change and combat the overdose crisis. 

What we did

“When it comes down to it, I think a lot of people are trying to bury their hurt, and would just like someone to talk to.” - Sharon.

The Behind the Numbers team, including a peer-researcher who has lived experience using substances alone and members of the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, interviewed over 100 individuals impacted by substance use. The team spoke with people living with addictions, their family and friends, and those providing support – healthcare practitioners, emergency services, community groups and more. 

What we learned

“For a long time, pride got in the way. I didn’t know how to ask for help.” - Scott 

Those interviewed told unique and personal stories of struggle, hope, survival and tragedy (PDF). 

Through these stories, people with lived experience helped draw and validate two important pictures of substance use and the interconnected issues in BC. 

The journey map shows some of the common paths described by the people interviewed, including their first experience with substance use, the outside influences and underlying experiences that added to their struggles with addiction, and ways they try to stay safe.

The systems map details the network of services, factors behind the overdose crisis in BC; including possible points for change, how an action in one area can affect the system in another, and ideas for working together to curb the crisis. 

These new resources are available to help all British Columbians better understand the complexity of the overdose crisis. They highlight how creative approaches that put people at the centre of care can lead to deeper understanding of each other and new ideas to solve the issues around us. 

And finally, they show the personalities behind the numbers, and how people that use drugs are real people. 

Get informed about how to identify and stop an overdose.