Men accounted for 80% of the 935 fatal overdoses in British Columbia last year and a researcher says its time to pay more attention to the risks they face
The calls began just after midnight and continued relentlessly throughout the day. By the end of Wednesday 26 April, paramedics in the Canadian province of British Columbia had responded to a record 130 suspected overdose calls.
The day offered a window on the battle playing out in British Columbia as residents grapple with an opioid crisis that has claimed, on average, four lives a day in the province.
The struggle is playing out across North America, as authorities in Canada and the US grapple with an epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives on both sides of the 49th parallel.
Against this stark backdrop, a professor at the University of British Columbia has highlighted a different statistic from the crisis: in 2016, of the 935 fatal overdoses in the province, 80% were men.
Research that shows men are more likely to use illicit drugs, so it is perhaps logical that they are more likely to overdose. But the clinical psychologist Dan Bilsker argues that the figure suggests a relationship between the crisis and masculinity one that may offer clues as to why the death toll continues to rise, and where the solutions might lie.
I think we havent really thought deeply or well about who men are, about what the pressures on them are, what we need them to be, he said.
Bilsker has spent years studying mens psychological health, delving into why men live an average of four to six years less than women and are more likely to kill themselves. In some ways, the opioid crisis stems from the same tangled roots, he said. And as with many other health issues, its singular interaction with gender has been largely overlooked.
Across Canada, at least 2,458 people died last year of an opioid overdose, according to the federal government. The death toll is worse than any other infectious epidemic in Canada, including the peak of Aids deaths, since the Spanish flu that took the lives of 50,000 people a century ago, Jane Philpott, Canadas health minister, told a conference in Montreal earlier this year. (Her government has been criticised for not doing enough to address the crisis as she spoke, protesters unfurled a banner reading: They talk, we die.)
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