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Fatal overdoses can have ‘ripple effect’ on others in community, Winnipeg counsellor says

Addiction is already an uphill battle, but tainted drugs are making things even worse for those struggling, as well as their loved ones, a Winnipeg counsellor says.

This year’s International Overdose Awareness Day has a theme of “recognizing people who go unseen,” and for Amanda Dewar, founder of Strength Counselling Services, that’s a message that remains relevant as Winnipeg continues to battle an opioid crisis.

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Dewar told 680 CJOB’s The Start that when someone dies of an overdose, there’s a ripple effect of emotions.

“A lot of people will come to us and say, ‘I have a lot of anxiety or I have trauma’ … and sometimes people are not able to exactly pinpoint what it is,” she said.

“It’s very common to hear how deeply they were affected by the death of someone — whether they knew them or not — and how it impacts their anxiety or depression levels.”

Dewar says it’s all too common, especially for those on the front lines — including first responders and members of community organizations who witness overdoses daily.

Click to play video: 'Families call for action as Manitoba surpasses overdose death record'

Families call for action as Manitoba surpasses overdose death record

According to Statistics Canada, there were more than 7,300 opioid-related deaths in the country last year alone — double what we saw just a few years ago — representing an average of 20 Canadians dying per day.

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Dewar said there’s still a massive misconception that those with addictions either don’t care or don’t want to get better.

“Addiction is not something that they can control. They’re struggling and they might try to get well, maybe they don’t know how to get well — but the journey of getting well, when you’re struggling in addiction, is so difficult and so lengthy,” she said.

“The person struggling may do their best and they may not succeed.”

The rampant availability of opioids and other substances in the city, Dewar said, makes an already difficult battle against addiction worse.

“There are so many layers of how these people get access to these substances,” she said.

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“The laws and the regulations that contribute to this person’s ability to use, and continuance of use…. On a systemic level, there are so many players that need to step up so we can save more lives.”

Click to play video: 'Province slow to share overdose data'

Province slow to share overdose data

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