The death toll is so high that Tylor Herold has stopped counting.
“In a year we’re in the double digits for sure,” said Herold, a Vernon resident who grew up in Lumby.
At just 36-years-old, he has been to more funerals than he’d ever imagine.
“It’s not all drug related, but enough to be alarmed,” said Herold, who has lost seven friends this year alone.
The majority are directly related to drug overdose, mostly due to heroin and fentanyl, according to Herold.
“Three in a week, that’s unheard of. This is Vernon,” he said of those who are being killed off by drugs, most of whom are in their mid to late 20s and have kids of their own.
The recent loss of a childhood friend was the last straw for Herold. While leaving Vernon Jubilee Hospital Tuesday, just before his buddy was taken off life support, he issued a challenge.
“With all this death that’s happening around us lately, I just feel like I had to speak out,” said Herold in a video that has more than 6,000 views and has been shared more than 70 times.
“Since people are dropping like flies we gotta cherish these times that we’re alive and start to reconnect with everybody.
“So I want to challenge everybody out there to start making some events, invite people, get together, offline. Life’s too short.”
By going back to simpler times and reconnecting, Herold hopes more people will see the benefit of getting together and remember how fun life is with good friends.
“If you’re hanging out with friends you don’t want to go sneak off and do drugs,” said Herold, who references a 1970s experiment by Canadian Psychologist Bruce Alexander.
Alexander’s experiment shows the effect environment has on drug use, aiming to discard the hypothesis that drugs are the sole cause of addiction. In previous experiments using rats, he says the animals offered water or drug-laced water would go for the latter because they were distressed due to the conditions they lived in. He showed this by building a rat park, with wheels and fluffy balls to entertain them, and when given the option of water or a sweetened morphine solution, most abstained from the drug.
“They would choose the clean water every day because of the environment,” said Herold. “It has more to do with the environment than we think.”
Therefore Herold hopes to get more people out into more positive environments with his challenge – to be tagged online with #reconnect.
“It’s about preventing more loss.”
With the rise in fentanyl-laced drugs and the resulting death toll, many question why anyone would even put themselves at risk by using.
“They think they’re untouchable and it’s the whole, ‘it can’t happen to me’ thing,” said Herold, who admits he used to party a bit back in the day but he won’t touch these potentially-deadly drugs anymore.
“I like muffins, but if one of them is poisoned I’m not gonna touch them,” said Herold. “But then again I’m not addicted to muffins.”
He understands the disease of addiction, but hopes his challenge will make a difference.
On top of that, he has been handing out Naloxone kits to those interested whenever he gets free ones. The kits, which are used to treat overdose, are available at the Vernon Health Centre, Cammy LeFleur Street Outreach Program at the Upper Room Mission and North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society, Vernon Methadone Clinic and the Downtown Primary Care Centre.
Herold also urges the following to any drug users: “If they’re going to keep doing this don’t do it alone, have someone here and have a kit.”