Fentanyl Crisis lowers average lifespan of British Columbians

Catherine Garrett / October 24, 2018

A naloxone kit has medication in it that can be used to temporarily reverse an opioid overdose.
(British Columbia Government)

A new report released by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer says that the average life expectancy of British Columbians is decreasing for the first time in several decades.

In the report, Doctor Theresa Tam said that life expectancy in the country has been steadily increasing up until now, but the opioid crisis has gotten so widespread that it’s making a dent in the statistics.

The decrease in British Columbia was measured at 0.12 – which is almost a month off of the provincial average of 81.7 (79.5 for males and 83.9 for females).

“For the first time in recent decades, life expectancy in British Columbia is decreasing, due to harms associated with opioid overdoses.” – Doctor Theresa Tam, Canadian Chief Public Heath Officer

Tam’s report also says that life expectancy in the country is not equal among all Canadians: First Nations, Metis, Inuit, lower-income and less-educated individuals have a lower life expectancy than the national average.

This graphic details the average life expectancy of British Columbians compared with the rest of the country.

We conducted a survey of 20 BCIT Students to find out how much they know about the opioid crisis and if they are trained to carry and administer a Naloxone kit.

While almost everyone who answered said they were aware of the ongoing crisis, no one had gotten their naloxone certification and less than 50% of students polled said that they know what a Naloxone kit is.

“I am (aware of the opioid crisis) but i’m not trained because i’ve not really seen, not the need but I’ve never really thought about it that deeply.” – Ben, BCIT Student

“ I’ve heard of the crisis but I’ve never seen it up close or heard about it from someone I know. It seems like a very far away subject.”- Paul, BCIT Student

“I don’t know anything about it so I think I’m not trained.” – Parmida, BCIT Student

“I wasn’t 100% aware to be honest, I’m not trained- I haven’t heard anything about it and i haven’t received any formal training.”- Alexandra, BCIT Student

“Yeah i know about it, who doesn’t?” when asked about the kit she said “ I don’t even know what that is, what is it? I know you can call 9-1-1 and stuff like that.”  – Marie, BCIT Student

“ I would probably not get trained because I don’t really see it that often and if i do see it I would probably just call emergency.” -Josh, BCIT Student

Naloxone is available in British Columbia without a prescription and will only work on opioid-related overdoses — though it will cause no harm if there are no opioids in someone’s system.

BC has a Take Home Naloxone program in place to provide harm reduction by providing free training in overdose prevention, recognition and first aid response, as well as a free Naloxone kit.