Librarians take on the opioid crisis following on site overdoses

They’re undergoing emergency training.

Apr 23, 2018
Librarians Take On The Opioid Crisis Following On Site Overdoses

TORONTO , ON- APRIL 13 – Injection drugs Leon ‘Pops’ Alward. He uses heroin and has experiences receiving naloxone. He works at the safe consumption site and volunteers at Moss Park, where he has injected others with heroin, for story focuses more on his own lived experiences, and the dangers of fentanyl..April 13, 2018. (Photo by Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The opioid crisis is one of the largest drug epidemics in North American history. After a generation of indiscriminate painkiller prescriptions, former patients have become addicts to an increasingly sinister family of narcotics that put them at a high risk for overdose. And these overdoses aren’t just happening in homes. They’re happening, in growing numbers, in public spaces too. As a response, librarians across Canada are now preparing for the worst-case scenario.

According to the Toronto Star, Toronto’s librarians are undergoing emergency training and receiving naloxone kits, which can be the difference between life and death for someone experiencing an overdose. It’s partly the city’s overall response to the growing crisis, overdose deaths in Toronto have shot up 70 percent in the last ten years. Some of the city’s librarians have already seen these tragedies firsthand.

“It’s a lot to carry,” said librarian Thomas Krzyzanowski, who found someone unconscious in the library bathroom last November. “Something that we’re really realizing that we have to think a lot more about is trauma, and the effects of vicarious trauma on us, as we respond to situations like this.”

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VANCOUVER, B.C. – JANUARY, 30. Pop-up injection site coordinator Sarah Blyth with an overdose naloxone kit in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside January 30, 2018. The former pop-up safe injection site now has a permanent home next-door to the former temporary site. (Photo by John Lehmann/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Toronto is hardly the only place where librarians have had to respond to the addiction crisis. In Calgary, naloxone kits have been distributed to security guards at libraries. Vancouver’s librarians had to fight against a policy that restricted them from responding to overdoses. They, too, are now preparing for the worst-case scenario in their city, which has been among the hardest hit by the opioid crisis. 

There’s hope among some experts that the legalization of cannabis in Canada will quell the opioid crisis. There are studies that indicate that legal marijuana can help patients wean off of these highly addictive pills. But until then, librarians—and other public servants—are preparing for situations that now feel inevitable. 

Apr 23, 2018