Study finds ‘alarming rate’ of OD deaths among young Indigenous people in B.C.

Study finds ‘alarming rate’ of OD deaths among young Indigenous people in B.C.

Indigenous people are 13 more times likely to die of drug OD related deaths

Indigenous drug users in British Columbia are 13 times more likely to die compared with other Canadians of the same age, says a decade-long study calling for cultural connections as a path to healing deep-rooted pain.

The study conducted by the Cedar Project Partnership of First Nations groups and researchers included 610 Indigenous people who smoked or injected drugs in Vancouver and Prince George and were between the ages of 14 and 30.

Forty people died during the study period between 2003 and 2014, and 65 per cent of them were women, says the study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

READ: B.C. hits record number of illicit drug overdose deaths : coroner

“The death rates among young Indigenous people who use drugs reported in this study are appalling and must be viewed as a public health and human rights issue,” the study says.

An additional 26 participants have died since the research was completed, and 15 of them had overdosed. Illness — including hepatitis C and HIV — and suicide were the next causes of death, it says.

The ongoing Cedar Project is based at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and has been examining links between historical traumas, such as residential schools, childhood sexual abuse and child welfare systems, on HIV and hepatitis C infection among young Indigenous drug users.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia, the University of Northern British Columbia, the Vancouver Native Health Society and the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network were among those involved in the study.

“It is possible that some of the overdoses observed were in fact suicides,” it says, adding previous findings by the Cedar Project indicate trauma affecting generations of Indigenous people may lead to “rejection of life itself.”

Suicide prevention must include a holistic approach to mental well-being that incorporates Indigenous culture, including ceremony and traditional languages, the study says.

“Indigenous leaders in Canada are concerned that their young people are dying prematurely, particularly those involved in the child welfare system, those entrenched in substance use and those living with HIV or hepatitis C.”

Researcher Dr. Martin Schechter, a professor in the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia, said autonomy among First Nations communities to promote health within their own culture is a crucial need to protect young people.

“Our research has also shown that people in the Cedar cohort who reported more contact with Indigenous culture by attending ceremonies or speaking the native language, those people were more resilient, had less risk than people who didn’t,” he said.

The study shows women are using more drugs, perhaps as a form of self-medication, to cope with childhood trauma, Schechter said.

“It seems like trauma, and historical trauma, is having more of an effect on the young women than the men.”

Karen Urbanoski, a scientist at the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, said in a related commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that the findings point to the need for tailored services and policies for Indigenous people, who have poorer health, on average, than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

“First Nations, Metis and Inuit people in Canada also carry a disproportionate burden of the harms related to substance use,” she said, adding there’s evidence people who identify as Indigenous are less likely to receive treatment for substance use and those who access it are likely to drop out.

In August, the First Nations Health Authority released data suggesting Indigenous people of all ages are five times more likely to overdose and three times more likely to die from overdose than others.

Dr. Shannon McDonald, deputy chief medical officer of the health authority, said a significant number of youth in the study were specifically identified as having been in the child welfare system.

“The rates of apprehension are very high among First Nations and Aboriginal people so many of these people have never had the opportunity to be connected,” she said.

McDonald said First Nations groups are working hard on community-led, community-designed programs, especially for youth who have been separated from families and communities for most of their lives.

— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Local youth vaccination clinics underway

Pfizer vaccine will be used

Priya Sharma. (Submitted)
Column: Why ultimatums don’t work

By Priya Sharma It is a common misconception that people can choose… Continue reading

People had a chance to interact with different animals at the petting zoo, participate in mutton busting, and buy everything local during the Fall Fair held in 2019. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
55th Fall Fair in Vanderhoof cancelled

Alternative events eyed once again

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

BC Lions running back John White IV (3) runs with the ball during first quarter CFL football action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Saturday, September 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
BC Lions file trademark for new logo

Canadian Football League team files for new design on June 1

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Camper van explosion burns Vancouver Island gas station to the ground

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. The website for a Broadway theatre showing "Springsteen on Broadway" said it would only allow guests "fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine" — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
No Springsteen for you: AstraZeneca not good enough to qualify for Broadway ticket

Victoria area mayor among those unable to attend New York entertainment due to COVID-19 restriction

The BC Ferries’ website is down for the second time in one week from what they say is likely an overwhelming increase in web traffic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Surging web traffic crashes BC Ferries’ site again

Website down for second time this week

John Furlong told the Vancouver Board of Trade on Feb. 20, 2020 that he thinks the city could and should bid for the 2030 Winter Games. (CP photo)
PODCAST: John Furlong lays out a ‘provincial’ B.C. plan to host the 2030 Winter Olympics

Podcast: Chat includes potential role for Vancouver Island communities

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Lake Country firefighters made good use of pet respirators they keep on board June 17, 2021. (District of Lake Country)
PHOTOS: 11 dogs rescued, home destroyed in large blaze in Okanagan

Home deemed a total loss, cause remains unknown but crews thankful for pet respirators

Most Read