Fen­tanyl a key fac­tor as over­dose deaths soar in B.C.

Times Colonist - - The Capital And Vancouver Island - — With a file from Cindy E. Harnett

More peo­ple died from il­licit drug over­doses in Bri­tish Columbia in the first eight months of this year than all of 2016.

The B.C. Coro­ners ser­vice says the 1,013 peo­ple who died from over­doses from Jan­uary to the end of Au­gust sur­passes a record 982 deaths last year.

In Vic­to­ria, there were 65 over­dose deaths recorded in the first eight months of this year, com­pared with a to­tal of 67 last year.

The prov­ince de­clared a state of emer­gency last year and took steps to try to re­duce the num­ber of over­doses.

Grant McKen­zie, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Our Place in Vic­to­ria, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion has dou­bled its tem­po­rary over­dose preven­tion unit to eight booths.

The unit pro­vides a clean place for peo­ple to in­ject il­le­gal drugs, with a para­medic, outreach worker and some­one from the So­ci­ety of Liv­ing Il­licit Drug Users on hand. Now that there are eight booths, two paramedics are on hand.

“We’re see­ing prob­a­bly over 100 vis­its a day,” McKen­zie said. “Since we’ve opened, we still see three to four over­doses a day, but we haven’t had a sin­gle fa­tal­ity.”

The unit out­side Our Place, which of­fers var­i­ous ser­vices to Vic­to­ria’s vul­ner­a­ble ci­ti­zens, is a tem­po­rary mea­sure un­til a fed­er­ally ap­proved su­per­vised­con­sump­tion site sets up shop at 941 Pan­dora Ave. next year.

The prov­ince’s lat­est fig­ures for 2017 show fen­tanyl was de­tected ei­ther alone or with an­other drug in more than 80 per cent of the deaths. In 2012, fen­tanyl was de­tected in just four per cent of over­dose deaths.

Chief coroner Lisa La­pointe said the in­crease in deaths high­lights the com­plex is­sues of drug de­pen­dency.

“It’s heart­break­ing to see the con­tin­ued high num­bers of deaths through­out the prov­ince de­spite nu­mer­ous ini­tia­tives and harm­re­duc­tion mea­sures in place,” La­pointe said in a state­ment. “We also need peo­ple to know that no il­licit sub­stance in this prov­ince can be con­sid­ered safe, whether you know your dealer or not.”

She said any­one us­ing il­licit drugs needs to be pre­pared for an over­dose and have some­one with them who is will­ing to help.

As part of the state of emer­gency, B.C. launched a take-home nalox­one pro­gram, pro­vid­ing train­ing in over­dose preven­tion to those who were sus­cep­ti­ble. The over­dose-re­vers­ing drug was also made avail­able at phar­ma­cies around the prov­ince.

The sta­tis­tics show 91 per cent of those who have died this year were between the ages of 19 and 59. Four out of five were men.

The coroner’s ser­vice says there were no deaths at su­per­vised con­sump­tion or dru­gover­dose preven­tion sites.

The fig­ures say most of those who died, about 89 per cent, were in­side a pri­vate home or other in­door lo­ca­tion, while 11 per cent of the deaths oc­curred in ve­hi­cles or out­side.

The sta­tis­tics show that fen­tanyl, a pow­er­ful pain killer, ap­pears to ac­count for the in­crease in over­dose deaths since 2012 be­cause the deaths where the drug is not in­volved have re­mained sta­ble at about 300 per year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.