What Drives People to Use Drugs? Voices' Story

January 23, 2019. Article by: Government of B.C.

“I come from an upper middle-class family,” Voices said. “I started smoking cigarettes at the age of seven, and smoking pot at nine. It was the hippie time, you know; my mom was open to it. My dad and uncle were alcoholics.”

“I didn’t try crack cocaine until I was 32...When I did heroin for the first time I wanted to watch TV for the rest of my life. So, I didn’t do it for another 20 years.”

Voices was a researcher, a construction worker and a person who used drugs.

His life was influenced by themes familiar to everyone – family history; childhood experiences; social experimenting.

As a peer-researcher in the Behind the Numbers project, Voices co-designed interview guides, facilitated conversations, and shared his own story; one of a larger collection that will inform the creation of a new system of addiction services in B.C., based on compassion and the experiences of people who use drugs.

He brought compassion, care and important insight into this role to help find ways to solve the overdose crisis – one of which was directly tied to his day job.

“I am a surveyor at construction sites and I’ve used at work…I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.”

Voices’ personal experience reflects something important in understanding the overdose crisis. 44% of the people who suffered a fatal overdose in B.C. in 2017 had jobs when they died—more than half in the trades and transport industries.

For Voices, this fact provides an opportunity to fight the overdose crisis by teaching people about harm reduction in the workplace—something he did off the work site as well.

“There isn’t a safe injection site where I live, so I supply harm reduction materials to 10 or 15 people. I let people who I know use at my house, to keep them safe. And if we try something new, then we say to each other: if you don’t hear from me in a few minutes, come check on me.”

Voices passed away on December 22, 2018 shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. His generosity, kindness, and care for others had a lasting impact and are helping to make positive strides to help stem the tide of the overdose crisis.

Voices message of connection reinforces the fact that when it comes to understanding substance use and overcoming the overdose crisis, nothing happens in isolation.

“I think the solutions are all connected.”

Learn more about the Behind the Numbers project: There is a Story Behind Every Statistic