Il­licit Drug Over­dose Deaths Still on the Rise

The Province - - ADVERTISMENT - Lisa La­pointe Chief Coro­ner, BC Coro­ners Ser­vice

H un­dreds of peo­ple are dy­ing across our province as a re­sult of il­licit drug over­doses. In­for­ma­tion gath­ered from coro­ners’ in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­tin­ues to sig­nal a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in il­licit drug over­dose deaths ,with 780 lives lost al­ready this year. That’s al­most dou­ble the num­ber of deaths in 2016, which recorded the high­est num­ber of il­licit drug deaths ever. We are los­ing loved and val­ued mem­bers of our com­mu­ni­ties at a tragic rate.

Our in­ves­ti­ga­tions show about 90 per­cent of il­licit drug over­dose deaths oc­cur in­side, in­clud­ing more than half in pri­vate res­i­dences — in many cases, in a bed­room or bath­room while oth­ers were in the home but un­aware. In other cases, peo­ple mis­in­ter­preted over­dose symp­toms as a deep sleep and, as a re­sult, didn’t sum­mon emer­gency help.

It’s im­per­a­tive that any­one us­ing il­licit drugs use them in the pres­ence of some­one who is aware of over­dose symp­toms and is will­ing and able to pro­vide med­i­cal as­sis­tance and call for help. New fed­eral leg­is­la­tion pro­vides im­mu­nity from sim­ple pos­ses­sion charges for those who call 9-1-1. If some­one close to you uses il­licit drugs, con­sider ob­tain­ing a nalox­one kit and rel­e­vant train­ing from a phar­ma­cist. In ad­di­tion, 20 over­dose preven­tion sites are open in the province, sav­ing lives with med­i­cal as­sis­tance on-site for those us­ing il­licit drugs. If you know some­one who uses il­licit drugs, en­cour­age them to re­duce their risk by us­ing at an over­dose preven­tion site.

Coro­ners Ser­vice cre­ates spe­cial drug in­ves­ti­ga­tion team

The Coro­ners Ser­vice Drug-Death In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team and our re­search unit are work­ing hard to iden­tify pat­terns and trends to help de­ter­mine who may be most at risk and where ef­forts and in­ter­ven­tions can be made to pre­vent fu­ture deaths. In some sit­u­a­tions, drugs pur­chased from a “re­li­able” source con­tained un­pre­dictable sub­stances like fen­tanyl, co­caine, heroin, metham­phetaimes, and MDMA (ec­stasy).

We’re also ex­plor­ing whether those dy­ing had pre­vi­ous over­dose ex­pe­ri­ences, sought drug treat­ment pro­grams, or had other phys­i­cal or men­tal health con­cerns. In­for­ma­tion is es­sen­tial to for­mu­lat­ing ev­i­dence-based so­lu­tions to the over­dose cri­sis.

Those who be­come drug-de­pen­dent ar­rive there for a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons. Their de­pen­dency makes them vul­ner­a­ble on nu­mer­ous fronts. As coro­ners, our goal is to sup­port ef­forts that save lives.We want to re­duce the ter­ri­ble loss of lives and the heart­break be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced on a daily ba­sis by fam­i­lies across our province.

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