Dozens of Vancouver data scientists with the social justice organization dataforgood gathered in Vancouver to try and provide more insight into the province's opioid overdose crisis.
From January to October of 2017 there were 1,208 deaths from illicit drug overdoses.
In comparison, 1991 saw only 117.
The total number of deaths from illicit drug overdoses in 2017 eclipsed any other unnatural cause of death in B.C., including suicide and motor vehicle incidents.
"So many people out there think that drug users are somehow inherently weak or flawed and they are here by virtue of this weakness and that is simply not true and we are hoping that this is what that data will show," said organizer Peter Kim, a co-founder of the Vancouver chapter of dataforgood.
The organization partnered with the Overdose Prevention Society to pore over provincial records to see what drugs people are using and for what reasons.
One of our data scientists made a word cloud of reasons for substance use. There are themes that stick out for sure. pic.twitter.com/YLYaA6M1RZ— @dataforgoodyvr
"Some of them just want to relax or they have some pain, they're going through stress and we want to see what kind of substances they're using ... and then we're trying to see if they're trying to stop using," said Noah Amar, who has a PhD in statistics.
Sarah Blyth from the Overdose Prevention Society hopes the data will show that trauma and pain can lead to addictions. Blyth hopes that, in turn, the findings will help in the development of more overdose prevention tools.
The society helps around 500 people a day safely inject drugs from locations on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. They are not a legally sanctioned safe injection site like InSite,
"Data really helps prove things for a fact, you know that we've saved hundreds of lives in one year...and there's been a bunch of overdose prevention sites open so we're saving lives," she said. "The death toll could be a lot higher than it is."
Really interesting data collated today about drug use and solutions for overdose prevention. Numbers crunched by data scientists at the Data For Good data-thon today.— @AngelaSterritt
#opioidcrisis #harmreduction. pic.twitter.com/eiLrCQOtZX