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choosing death

that line is about to bust through the graph.

there is no reason to hope that it will change course, as the situation stands now. hope is actually not helpful.

this is the provincial coroner’s update on illicit drug toxicity deaths in british columbia to the end of February 2021.


remember in last month’s update, it was 165 deaths in january? nine have been added. 155 in february, for an average of 165.

take a deep breath and also remember those who are uncounted, those who suffered catastrophic neurological harm from oxygen deprivation, those who survived but will never recover and are uncounted

its so much worse than 2017 or 2018. and when 2017 or 2018 is your closest comparison and the provincial government takes a wait-and-see approach – thinks they can wait it out – that tells me that they don’t understand this at all, and that we are all going to die.


this means over 2000 deaths in 2021 in BC.

look at these other “Unnatural” deaths – add them up and its still not close. “unnatural” means “preventable”, for the most part. but as ours are deaths caused by drug policy (not drugs), these deaths are the predictable consequences of choices we have made, and continue to make:

Comparison to Other Common Causes of Unnatural Deaths from 2010 to 2020

these are social murders, mass killings by structural violence, amplified in these COVIDtimes:

“when society places hundreds …in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet, murder it remains” (Engels 1845) on Social Murder

stop murdering the younger generations, stop killing your children, think of the children.

38.2% (2 of every 5) of the people who died under the age of 45 died from drug poisoning.

holy fucken hell.

look at northern health.

This map illustrating the regional mortality rates for overdose/poisoning deaths in The Best Place on Earth is almost meaningless as almost every region’s rate is above the highest threshold.

almost half of the deaths in the Vancouver Coastal region occur in “other” residences: supportive housing, SROs, shelters… that’s the DTES: we must mandate harm reduction as a principle of building design and housing management – as part of what accessibility means. people reject this housing because they don’t want to die. it is not accessible. we must change this.

“More illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred during the days following income assistance payment (Wed-Sun) than all other days in 2020-21.”

except last april. the first month of the $300 topup.

raise the rates and stop cheque day (for anyone who wants their $ on a schedule they choose) raise the damn rates and stop dumping all the legal money on all the poor people on the same day.


was the $ “used to open 17 new supervised consumption services and 12 new inhalation services in communities hit the hardest by the overdose crisis”?

and where is the safe supply. because every day 5+ people die, you dont announce their deaths solemnly, and you do less. you know “treatment” just means dignified health care, right? you seem more interested in the unregulated treatment indu$try.

today is day 1,806 of the overdose emergency. april 14 will be its fifth year. dont say you’re heartbroken and do nothing. it doesnt have to be this way.

traffic pylon in alley; "I Miss All My Friends, RIP Shaggy, 1993-2019, Dec 9" written on it.

there’s a few other things to say but lets take a few minutes


“In February, we lost 155 people to a toxic illicit drug supply in B.C. They were taken too soon. It’s a heartbreaking loss. Front-line workers, caregivers, families and peers deserve our gratitude as they respond to overdoses and care for loved ones during a pandemic that has made everything worse.

i dont think you understand whats happening here. i feel sick.

We brought deaths down before and we’ll do it again.

oh you dont understand this at all.


please tell your MLA that you dont want the daily human ritual executions of 5+ people to continue expand Safe Supply through regulation now & Decriminalize, amend the police act. raise the rates to the *poverty line* and yeah housing now.

over 100 crappy toys in a crap tree  the Regent.

i am scared for all you.

in the aftertimes you are going to be messed up. so will the youngers. you will suffer from anxiety and insomnia and loneliness and other mental health problems, and chronic, searing pain.

because you are human you will want to feel better, or even good. you will want drugs.

you dont want to go through what we have been through. you dont want this.

this tree broke from the weight of the toys, each one memorializing someone who had died.

please write your MLA. this emergency cant go on.

Stop Killing Everyone

the federal government is introducing criminal justice something-something reform today, about “prioritizing rehabilitation programs for people caught with drugs.”

★ maybe it expands drug treatment courts, which are shitty

★ maybe it eliminates mandatory minimums

★ maybe it creates treatment programs, funded so that people can access them? hahaha no

★ maybe it gives police the authority to make decisions about people’s lives that they should NOT be making

★ maybe it is a half-step, a slight lean away from criminalization to pathologization which is a good way help police and doctors and continue killing thousands and thousands of people who use drugs every year.

none of that is actually good. now who’s decriminalized?

i’m sure it will be some combination of the above, some weak-ass gesture that will not end this social massacre that Trudeau’s governments will be remembered for (eventually), but it might get him through an election using the same slogan “We’re Not The Worst” and keep the votes of anyone who still believes this bullshit. that is, not one person who has been paying attention.

instead, the government could do something effective. no really. its a choice.

It’s NOT an opioid crisis

It is not an opioid crisis! The changes we seek are not about a class of drug. This about prohibition & racist drug policy that justifies its existence by punishing people already suffering under the conditions it has created; its a weapon of the structures that must be unmade.

That’s why this is structural violence. It’s not drugs: people are dying from drug policy.

Drug policy is an expression of state power, and COVID amplifies.

But it is NOT an opioid crisis in every possible sense! Let me explain…

Category Error: these deaths were caused by prohibition & criminalization & are all drug policy-related. we can stop these deaths by regulating drugs & addressing this social disaster directly with housing for all, liveable incomes, medicine (Safe Supply), and ways to get out of this cycle. This is not about a class of drugs. this is about drug policy, and this is what happens when a policy becomes detached from the reality it was intended to address, and reforms are attempted by people who have no idea what is going on.

Last year, a huge number of people – around SEVEN THOUSAND – died in canada because the drugs they consumed were produced for an unregulated market. all the supply chains were disrupted by covid and maybe the government should have bailed out the illicit economy too. these disruptions led to dramatic changes in the composition of the supply (btw the drug supply in Ontario is distinct from that in BC and Alberta, clearly from completely different sources. who knows re: prairies, no drug checking), and not ONE big change. its been inconsistent since March, which is the problem. if you use down, and you get a product that is mostly benzos for a few weeks, and then the opioid returns, your tolerance will have decreased and why am i telling you this, you’re dead.

To return to this “stimulant-related deaths” bullshit – a made-up category suddenly introduced LAST MONTH by Health Canada – and “what bullshit is this” i said at the time: because this is a serious and intentional misrepresentation and reframing of the crisis formerly known as the “opioid crisis” by the federal government, a retcon: a BRAND NEW CATEGORY of a cause of death by a category of drugs, invented in 2020, but killing since … 2018? what? so the numbers for “opioid overdoses” went down but this new category was added and what’s really being measured here, when

and its even acknowledged that this is the case:

“Data on apparent opioid toxicity deaths and stimulant toxicity de aths are not mutually exclusive. A high proportion of deaths involving a stimulant also involved an opioid. Adding up those numbers would result in an overestimation of the burden of opioids and stimulants.”

Apparent Opioid- and Stimulant-related deaths, PHAC 2020

We all know that the feature shared by these killer opioids and stimulants is that theyre prohibited substances that are available on the unregulated market – but placing these into separate categories misses the point. its not the drug, its drug policy.

There is some irony in calling these Controlled Drugs and Substances.

It’s not this drug or that: its prohibition. Not only is it true that people use more than one drug (ie people mix), this is the illicit market, NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE PUTTING IN THEIR BODY so every drug user is a polysubstance user.

not the legal and prescribed ones but including alcohol

so the distinction between classes of drug is false. drugs is drugs and dead is dead. this distinction makes the data – the count of our dead – meaningless. and wrong.

So don’t call it an opioid crisis. Call it a Social Massacre, or a Poisoning Emergency, or a Mass Execution by Poison. Start setting your own terms.


but its not a silver bullet!

have you ever heard such a nonsensical objection to a proposed policy reform? “Oh if its not a single-point solution, we’re not going to bother trying.”

decriminalization is necessary to enable the rest of the solution.

nobody needs to hear any more about what decriminalization should NOT be, that it should not be with dissuasion panels, not with cops, not like Portugal or another place. let’s talk about what it could, and should be, figure out how to get there, and then do it. imagine: instead of being against something horrible, we’re going to work FOR something we imagine, and win.

and this is not only about us as people who use drugs: through our connections to larger movements, our movement (when successful) will dissolve. because in fact decriminalization is about Black Lives Matter and defunding the police, not about consolidating the carceral state. the police must not be involved (yes they can go decriminalize themselves) in defining or deciding what decriminalization means! its through public discourse that we will reduce discrimination and bring people in. just by talking about these things, our lives, openly.


  • stop centring ourselves, this is a social/political issue that impacts everyone
  • emphasize the economic sinkhole of criminalization
  • the drug war is racist, and a consequence of colonialism. defund the police.
  • safe supply does decriminalize. thats why we ask doctors – among the most powerful people in cdn society – to step up for us and prescribe. to defy the aura of criminal association.
  • when people object to the possibility of profound social change, thats how you know its necessary.
  • nothing about prohibition, the drug war, criminalization – none of this is natural or inevitable or necessary. its our world, lets change it. 
  • STOP TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF. talk about the impacts on the people you’re trying to convince. talk about the public interest – how even non-criminalized people will benefit from a decriminalized society.
zooming in and out on a werewolf! caption: its not a silver bullet.... or IS it?

i’m tired of having to say that drug users should be at the centre of this and set the terms. that shouldnt need to be said. meet us where we’re at. catch up.

a public discussion is itself a process of decriminalization, since the goal is for drug users to simply be part of the public. to become boring regular people – rather than Those People. that’s the goal.

as long as users continue to be Those People, our deaths (and lives) aren’t real and nothing will change.

we don’t want compassion : we need the public to see themselves in us, to identify with us. not a brother, cousin, mother, or son. but to see us (the living) as themselves.

we need to do everything we can to bridge that gap too. what Decriminalization will look like is up to us.

a Decriminalized Vancouver is not a solution to a nationwide catastrophe. we know this, and this is not an I-Got-Mine Hail Mary to the endzone or an empty symbolic gesture. the federal government wasn’t about to do anything without significant pressure; what we did was create a pressure point, and made a window. we will keep on pushing. we must all continue to generate momentum, any way you can – have a discussion group, an educational or dialogue session, or a poster campaign, connect with each other, catch each other up. we need to push from the inside and the outside, and find new angles and ways. and start now! no one is coming to save us, and there is no Them: its just us.


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