Opioids: challenge what you think you know

October 16, 2018

Opioids: challenge what you think you know

From November 5 to 9, 2018 the public is invited to challenge what they think they know about opioids by attending the free Opioids Don’t Discriminate: An Interactive Experience in Strathcona County’s Community Centre (401 Festival Lane, Sherwood Park).

Unique to Alberta, the Opioids Don’t Discriminate: An Interactive Experience profiles local statistics, opioid information and local supports while immersing participants in an interactive journey through three fictionalized character stories of Natasha, David and Max. These stories, based on real-life experiences of those affected by opioid use, address the pervasive stigmas and judgments about people who use drugs, while strengthening empathy and understanding about substance use.

Through interactive elements, participants will learn about the science of addiction, the impact of opioids and how the crisis is affecting people locally, provincially and nationally. School, organization and group bookings can be arranged by contacting Strathcona County Family and Community Services at 780-464-4044. Please note this event deals with real-life subject matter about addiction and substance misuse. This may have sensitive content for some participants. Subject matter may not be appropriate for youth under 12 years of age.

“Families impacted by the opioid crisis have told us ending stigma and fostering greater understanding is key to saving lives. Our government will continue to work with communities to reduce the devastating harms caused by opioid use, fight the negative stigma individuals and families face and support those who use substances, their friends, families and communities. We are proud to support community-based projects like this one that help all of us reduce stigma and harm caused by opioids,” says Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

“We know stigma is one of the main reasons people avoid asking for support and treatment,” says Mayor Rod Frank. “This interactive event challenges our assumptions about addictions, specifically related to opioids. While our ultimate goal is prevention through education, we also know that empathy and learning about addiction science equips us with a better understanding about the supports needed by those impacted by opioid use in our community.”

Available data from Alberta Health indicates that from 2013 to near the end of 2017, there were 573 emergency department visits made to hospitals by Strathcona County residents for opioid use and other substance misuse.  In general, 80 per cent of drug and alcohol related emergency department visits by County residents are opioid related.

Opioids are medication used mainly to treat pain. They are often prescribed by doctors for short and long-term moderate to severe pain, and can slow down heart rate and breathing. Opioids can be prescribed as pills, syrups, nasal sprays, skin patches, suppositories and liquid injections. 

The illegal use of fentanyl is part of the opioid crisis. Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl. Opioids are sold or obtained illegally through methods including ordering online, manufacturing counterfeit pills (such as fake oxy) and reselling existing prescription pills. Fentanyl and carfentanil are often mixed with other drugs (such as heroin or cocaine) to increase drug potency or cut costs and increase profits. Any medication or drug obtained illegally can be cross-contaminated with fentanyl and carfentanil simply from touching pills or sharing surfaces.

Under Strathcona County’s Social Framework’s goal of creating a supported, safe and connected community for all, multiple sectors joined together to form a local Drug Strategy Committee. One priority of the committee’s work is taking action on the opioid crisis.

As part of this local approach, Strathcona County successfully received a $40,100 grant from Alberta Health’s Opioid Public Awareness Grants for Communities to develop a local public opioid awareness campaign. In addition to the interactive experience from November 5-9, the public awareness campaign includes opioid information shared via social media, newspaper ads/columns, local theatre ads, bus advertising, posters and more.

Moving forward, the Drug Strategy Committee will continue to work towards the overall prevention, treatment, harm-reduction, community inclusion and safety initiatives that lead to overall health and well-being for everyone.

The Drug Strategy Committee is a local group of representatives from Alberta Children’s Services, Alberta Health Services, Chimo Youth Retreat Centre, Elk Island Catholic Schools, Elk Island Public Schools, Hope in Strathcona, MLA Annie McKitrick, Moms Stop the Harm, Parents Empowering Parents, RCMP, RCMP Victim Services, Saffron Centre, Salvation Army, Sherwood Park Primary Care Network, Strathcona County, Strathcona County Library.

More information or call 780-464-4044.

Set in the centre of Alberta’s energy and agricultural heartland, Strathcona County is a thriving, successful and vibrant community of over 98,000 residents. Strathcona County is made up of the urban area of Sherwood Park and a large adjacent rural area of farms, acreages and smaller hamlets. It is home to 75 per cent of refining in Western Canada. With a focus on economic, governance, social, cultural and environmental sustainability, Strathcona County is committed to balancing the unique needs of its diverse community.

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Contact: Strathcona County Communications, 780-410-6595