Harm reduction event aimed at breaking down the stigma of addiction and inspiring action
Hundreds of people attended a harm reduction event at Edmonton’s Metro Cinema on Thursday to understand how to administer naloxone during an overdose and watch films about the drug poisoning crisis.
A panel of frontline workers and healthcare professionals also gave a presentation on the impact of toxic drug supply to bolster support for frontline public relations.
“[toxic drugs] really are in everyone’s neighborhood,” said Dr. Ginetta Salvalaggio, associate director of Edmonton’s Inner City Health and Wellness Program and one of the speakers.
“People have to be careful.”
In November, 120 people died from accidental opioid poisoning in Alberta, 45 of them in Edmonton. In 2022, over 500 people died from drug poisoning in Edmonton.
Documentaries screened for educational purposes
Two short documentaries were screened at the event, each highlighting a different aspect of the drug poisoning crisis.
Love in times of fentanyl was filmed on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and follows current and former drug users as they run a safe injection site.
Director Colin Askey, who once struggled with addiction, hopes his film will break down the stigma of addiction.
“Whether someone uses drugs or not shouldn’t affect our willingness to care and give everything we have when it comes to responding to this crisis,” he said.
Those present also watched Building hope: Substance use in businesswhich examines how men working in trades are at much higher risk of substance-related harm, including overdose.
Edmonton City Councilman Michael Janz organized the event and said key residents appreciate the gravity of the crisis.
“It’s a critical public health issue,” he said. “[The event was] an opportunity to have a conversation about ‘okay, so what do we do?’ respectively.”
Donations used for addiction help
Admission to the event doubled as a donation, with proceeds going to the 4B Harm Reduction Society, a non-profit public relations organization in Edmonton.
The donations go towards the group’s program, which includes providing warm clothing and food to people with addiction problems.
Society director Angela Staines said fundraising is difficult because her group also provides sterile injection supplies to drug users.
“It just means we can give even more back … and put a little humanity where there isn’t much right now.”
In addition to receiving donations, the 4B Harm Reduction Society was responsible for overdose reversal training at the event and conducted nasal and muscle naloxone demonstrations.
Staines said all Edmontonians should receive naloxone education and take-home kits, regardless of their neighborhood.
“It’s not an urban problem. It’s everywhere,’ she said.