Canadian musicians are fighting back against the opioid crisis

November 28, 2016

Canada’s greatest drug threat at the moment, and for some time now, has been the opioid crisis—an epidemic that is very much not limited to our borders, but a global issue. What was once an already terrible problem has become an increasingly terrifying news item with the rise of fentanyl, an opioid that can be anywhere from 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. In April earlier this year, British Columbia became the first (and so far only) province to declare a public health emergency in response. It will certainly get much worse before it gets any better. But as Exclaim! reports, Canada’s DIY music scenes aren’t waiting around for the government to do something about it, instead taking matters into their own hands in the wake of losing loved ones and scene fixtures much too soon.

The scariest thing about fentanyl is that it’s being found increasingly in other drugs—cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, bootleg oxycontin and Xanax. And it doesn’t take much of the drug to kill you. So across Canada—namely Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal—the DIY and punk communities have been organizing workshops where people can learn about how to reduce the harm of drug use, receive Naloxone kits and learn how to use them, and be educated on how to stay safe in the midst of the opioid crisis. Naloxone is a drug that can combat overdoses by attacking the brain’s opioid receptors. Toronto’s Double Double Land is among the first music venues in Canada to carry an overdose kit on-site that contains Naloxone.

As the Exclaim! article shows, these sort of grassroots efforts are a way to hopefully combat the stigma that often goes along with drug use, providing safe spaces for people to confront these issues. Toronto’s premiere punk festival Not Dead Yet had attendees trained in how to use Naloxone at every one of their shows this year, proving once again that the punk and DIY scenes are nearly unparalleled in knowing how to take care of their own. There’s almost no music scene on Earth that could stake the claim to being 100% clean, and these ones are providing an example of how to take care of that issue and fight it head on. If you are part of—or play!—in a community that could use some help navigating the opioid crisis, get involved, get educated, and start some workshops of your own.


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About the Author

Matt Williams

Matt Williams is a writer and photographer. Born and raised on the Prairies in Winnipeg, he’s slowly made his way farther and farther east, spending a few years covering music in Toronto before running clear out of country and ending up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In between, he’s made numerous detours, interviewing and photographing countless artists across North America and beyond. He heads up Amplify’s Instrumental series, where he talks with musicians about the relationships they’ve formed with their most important tools.

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