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Native OD rate alarming

Indigenous drug users in B.C. are 13 times more likely to die compared with other Canadians of the same age, says a decade-long study calling for cultural connections as a path to healing deep-rooted pain.

The study conducted by the Cedar Project Partnership of First Nations groups and researchers included 610 Indigenous people who smoked or injected drugs in Vancouver and Prince George and were between the ages of 14 and 30.

Forty people died during the study period between 2003 and 2014, and 65 per cent of them were women, says the study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"The death rates among young Indigenous people who use drugs reported in this study are appalling and must be viewed as a public health and human rights issue," the study says.

An additional 26 participants have died since the research was completed, and 15 of them had overdosed. Illness — including hepatitis C and HIV — and suicide were the next causes of death, it says.

The ongoing Cedar Project is based at the BC Children's Hospital Research Institute and has been examining links between historical traumas, such as residential schools, childhood sexual abuse and child welfare systems, on HIV and hepatitis C infection among young Indigenous drug users.

Researcher Dr. Martin Schechter, a professor in the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia, said autonomy among First Nations communities to promote health within their own culture is a crucial need to protect young people.

"Our research has also shown that people in the Cedar cohort who reported more contact with Indigenous culture by attending ceremonies or speaking the native language, those people were more resilient, had less risk than people who didn't," he said.



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