The Crisis Behind The Crisis

by British Columbia
Categories: Blog, COVID-19

The Crisis Behind the Crisis

Over the past number of months British Columbia has seen a terrifying increase in the number of overdoses. By the end of August, only eight months into the year, the province had already broken its own record number of illicit drug deaths surpassing all those in 2019 with 1,068 individuals losing their lives. This record-breaking year included six straight months with more than 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths from March to August. This crisis continues to claim lives all while nations around the world continue to struggle fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic.

How has the crisis behind the crisis been able to continue to worsen during this time, and what role has the global pandemic played in the growing number of lives taken?

We spoke to Mark, a frontline Addictions Counsellor at Vancouver Harbour Light, to learn more. *

“In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 people have been told to isolate themselves, but when someone is using and is in distress no one is there to help.”

Mark believes that COVID-19 has played a large factor in the increased number of overdoses and deaths we’re seeing here in British Columbia. “In order to prevent the spread people have been told to isolate themselves, but when someone is using and is in distress no one is there to help,” he says. Those seeking treatment might have also been wary of visiting a counsellor in-person during the height of the pandemic. Additionally, the closure of the borders has affected the supply of illicit substances causing an unreliable product with more potential to cause harm.

For the province to see a reduction in the number of overdoses Mark imagines a situation where it is possible to choose clean, pharmaceutical-grade drugs over street drugs. Then, with treatment services available addiction professionals can help ultimately lead a person to abstinence. There is also a need to address some of the common misconceptions around the drug crisis. This includes the fact that alcohol is also a drug, and that if misused prescribed narcotics can lead to serious issues.

Throughout the pandemic the Treatment Program at Vancouver Harbour Light has been able to stay open by making a number of changes to ensure the safety of clients and staff.

To provide safe physical distancing dorm rooms at Harbour Light were changed to single occupancy with one being designated to isolate anyone experiencing symptoms, and 12-step meetings were limited to residential clients and staff. Although changes like this meant that the program could no longer accept as many clients, they were able to still run some vital group activities by adjusting the spacing, hosting partially virtual meetings, mandating mask use, performing routine symptom checks, and increased cleaning.

Mark is very passionate about this issue and about helping others who are trying to change their lives for the better. This is because he is not only an Addictions Counsellor at Harbour Light but a graduate and alumni himself. “I personally completed the program twice at Vancouver Harbour Light and have been sober for the last fifteen years,” Mark shares.

“I’ve seen firsthand the miracles that happen at Vancouver Harbour Light.  The compassion and second chances are beyond measure.”


Because of the generosity and support from donors like you, we are able to help Mark and others struggling with addiction.

This crisis cannot be ignored any longer, every single day people are dying; this is the reality we are faced with. We can’t do it alone. We need your help.


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*name changed to protect the privacy of individuals