A spike in deaths from synthetic cannabis use is worrying The Salvation Army as it prepares to remember people who died from drug overdoses.
Memorial services and events to highlight and educate about overdose will be held at Salvation Army Bridge centres around the country for International Overdose Awareness Day on Friday (31 August).
Marking the day seemed especially important following the sharp rise in deaths from synthetic cannabinoids in the past 12 months, Salvation Army Addiction Services national director Lieutenant Colonel Lynette Huston says.
Provisional figures from the coroner’s office showed 40 to 45 people died from synthetic cannabinoid use in the year to June, compared to two in the previous five years.
“These deaths are a wake-up call to the toll this drug and others are having on New Zealanders,” Lieutenant Colonel Hutson says. “In a year where the government is reviewing addiction treatment, it’s timely to remember the consequences of not getting help to people who are struggling with addiction.”
It is the first year The Salvation Army in New Zealand has marked the international day which was started by The Salvation Army Australia in 2001. Along with remembering those who died the day also remembers the impact on families and the wider community, Lieutenant Colonel Hutson says.
“We’ve seen hundreds more and more partners and families coming to us for support in the past year because of their family member’s addiction. This is a day to remember all those who suffer from addictions.”
Nicky, a Salvation Army Bridge staff member, will be among those sharing their stories—speaking about friends who died, her own overdoses and more than 20 years drug free and helping others in recovery.
“The first time I remember hearing someone on the phone saying, “We’ve got a woman here who’s overdosed and died”. I thought they were talking about my friend. When I came to I was surprised to find it was me who had died.”
Although there is a lot of stigma still around people who overdose, Nicky says what she needed most when she was using was support, to know she was more than a user and there was more to life.
“What I would say to the people who are using is you are valuable, you are loved and you are in incredible danger, that you don’t know you’re in when you’re in that space.”
“I really thought if I died people would be relieved. I never realised life could be this good. I never realised you could have joy in just being alive.”
Issued on the Authority of Commissioner Andy Westrupp (Territorial Commander)
The Salvation Army, New Zealand Fiji & Tonga Territory
Lieutenant Colonel Lynette Hutson
National Director Salvation Army Addiction Services
Mobile: 027 495 0598
Phone: (09) 639 1135
Territorial Media Officer
Mobile: 021 270 3683
Phone: (04) 802 6269 ext 24274