LONDON, ONT. -- “Overdose from opioids can happen to anyone.” It’s a message paralympian Paul Rosen wants heard loud and clear.

That’s because Rosen became addicted to opioids after a bad hockey injury back in 1975.

“It started out as a prescription for an actual injury, but then it became so easy to receive that it took me into a dark hole and into a depression and into an addiction that almost took my life many, many times,” says Rosen.

A Canadian sledge hockey goalie for the Paralympic team, Rosen is now a motivational speaker.

He says it was opioids that he used to try to take his life one last time in January of 2019. He took 35 OxyContin pills that night, before being rushed to hospital.

“I got extremely lucky that I didn’t die that time and all the doctors I saw since that day cannot believe how I lived through that suicide attempt,” says Rosen.

And the opioid crisis has continued to grow. Ontario’s coroner reported a 25 per cent surge in opioid related deaths in the first few months of the pandemic alone.

Numbers across the London region have also been growing over the past several years.

“There were 457 emergency room visits in London and surrounding area in 2018 and 44 deaths between January and Sept. 2019 in just London,” says Nauman Shaikh, a pharmacist at Medpoint Care Pharmacy.

Shaikh says that’s why awareness is important, as well as getting more nalaxone kits out into the community.

“It comes along the same lines as someone having an allergic reaction and you’re using an epipen. It’s the same line, it’s a harm reduction strategy where time is life.”

Rosen agrees, and that’s why he’s hoping to share his message and encouragement for more people to have nalaxone kits handy.

“I honestly hope that people realize that one person can make a difference. That’s all it takes, one person can make a difference!”