Dear Pen Pals...

Do you have a question about drug use, addiction, mental health, relationships, sexuality, or other life issues? We've got you covered.

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Are there things you’ve always wondered about but have felt too uncomfortable to ask someone? Is there an issue you just don’t understand but would like to learn more about?

Megaphone has the answers you need.

Welcome to Pen Pals, a new feature that runs each month in our magazine.

Building on the open dialogue around drug use and addiction fostered by Megaphone’s new Speakers Bureau program, we’re launching a monthly “advice column” that aims to encourage respectful discussion about real life issues. We also want to increase interaction between the Megaphone team and our readers and customers.

So fire away! We have the awesome folks who are involved with Speakers Bureau, as well as some of our seasoned vendors, standing by to dole out their two cents’ worth.  (Take their advice at your own risk).

Oh, and a warning: Agree or disagree, rant or rave, but please be concise and respectful. No profanity. And while we are supportive of an honest exchange of ideas, racist, sexist, homophobic or other denigrating comments will not be printed.


Dear Pen Pals,

Q: For a long time, we have referred to the overdose crisis when we describe the devastating drug
crisis that has the place we call Vancouver—and beyond—in its grip.

I am interested in whether the word “overdose” accurately describes what is really taking place and whether its use does any disservice (or outright harm?) to both the people who are directly affected by the crisis, and those who are not.

The Georgia Straight publication recently featured a quote by Vancouver Coun. Christine Boyle, where reference is made to the “opioid-poisoning crisis.” This seems like more appropriate nomenclature to me. What do you think?

OK great question! The answer is that you are right, the term “overdose”—first coined around 1700— is not wholly accurate to describe the situation we are currently in. “Poisoning” sounds more accurate.

It’s ironic and sad that many people I know who have died in this crisis were forced to the street to acquire what is technically a medication because their doctor cut them off of Methadose (methadone). Maybe it's an “under-dose” crisis.

As well, first responders and overdose prevention workers attending calls where drugs were alleged to have been involved have been seeing other medical symptoms. These include body rigidity, and muscular spasms and contraction, which are not normally associated with opiate intoxication. Apparently our already contaminated illicit drug supply just isn't toxic enough for some, and these other ingredients could be possibly be interpreted as poisoning.

Plus, using the word “poisoning” has the added benefit of taking unfair blame off of the individual, who may be dealing with any number of serious life issues. What’s more, often times the reasons they became involved with opiates in the first place are no longer the same as the reasons they will now risk their own lives for the chance to end what is no longer the original pain.

Have you ever heard the word "fentanylities?" It's a term my wife Samona Marsh came up with shortly after her father passed of an accidental hit of fentanyl-laced crack.

The word is a combination of fentanyl and fatality. I thought it was so neat I suggested she submit it to the I helped her write out a technical definition and a week later she was the proud new owner of her very own word: Fentanylities (noun): the mass accumulation of overdose fatalities, recorded globally and centering from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside due to the illicit manufacturing and street-level distribution of the synthetic opiate painkiller fentanyl.

As in: No more fentanylities! That's what we use, anyway.
You are welcome to it as well, of course.


Nicolas Crier (pictured above)

Coordinator, Megaphone Speakers Bureau

Send your questions to editor@, drop them off at the Megaphone office at 312 Main St. (at Cordova), or drop us a line on Twitter: @MegaphoneMag

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