Here is where you can find help if you or a loved one is struggling with substance use this holiday

·2 min read

The holiday season can be stressful at the best of times, but with British Columbians caught in the clutches of two public health emergencies, experts are warning Christmas celebrations, however subdued, can still be particularly challenging for anyone battling addiction.

Over 150 British Columbians died from suspected overdoses in November, and health experts agree the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening the overdose situation in B.C.

According to Dr. Nader Sharifi with B.C. Mental and Health Substance Use Services, alcohol, nicotine and drug use has increased "several fold" since the pandemic began. It is critical, he said, that people have resources on hand over the holidays to help prevent a potential crisis.

He also said it is important to understand what can trigger someone with addiction issues, such as financial and familial tensions, and to take stock of who is at virtual or bubble gatherings and not expose anyone working on their sobriety to substances.

"It is important to have a plan in place to do something that will not be triggering," said Sharifi.

Helpful resources

If someone does need help this holiday, resources are available.

Crisis lines across B.C. operate for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, connecting callers with staff or volunteers who are trained to be empathetic, non-judgmental listeners.

By calling the provincial toll-free number at 310-6789 you will be connected with a call taker in your area.

Other resources to note include:

  • Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Service at 1-800-663-1441 (toll-free in B.C.) or 604-660-9382 (in the Lower Mainland) to find resources and support.

  • 1-800-SUICIDE(1-800-784-2433) if you are considering suicide or are concerned about someone who may be.

  • Kid's Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a professional counsellor, 24 hours a day.

  • If you suspect an overdose, call 911 right away.

The B.C. government is also reminding drug users to avoid using alone as much as possible, visit an overdose prevention or supervised consumption service if possible, get a free naloxone kit, and to download the Lifeguard app.

The app is activated by the user before they take their dose. After 50 seconds, the app will sound an alarm. If the user doesn't hit a button to stop the alarm, indicating they are fine, the alarm grows louder. After 75 seconds a text-to-voice call will go straight to 911, alerting emergency medical dispatchers of a potential overdose.

According to B.C. Mental and Health Substance Use Services, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health or substance use issue.