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

Chinook fishery not ‘closed’ in area is message from guides

Conservative MP Calkins comes to Campbell River hear fishing stakeholders’ concerns

UPDATE: Fire crews suppress smouldering fire on Highway 19 north of Campbell River

Wildfire reached .25 hectares, according to BC Wildfire Service

Strathcona Regional District won’t cover director’s court costs

Case was concluded June 10, with lawyer saying clients were put up to launching petition

Intertidal walk looks at life on the reef in Campbell River

Biologist Sandra Milligan has been leading walks for 13 years

Residents welcomed to new Habitat for Humanity homes in Campbell River

New homeowners received keys during ceremony at affordable housing development

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

Most Read