After a fentanyl-related overdose death recently reported in Smithers, the RCMP are warning the public that small towns in Northern B.C. are not immune to fentanyl.
According to corporal Aaron Semmler with the Burns Lake RCMP, although fentanyl hasn’t been seized in the Lakes District, the Burns Lake detachment works under the assumption that fentanyl is already in the area.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more addictive than heroin and potentially fatal in minutes. The substance can take the form of liquid, powder or pill, and can be masked in virtually any consumable product, including marijuana.
Smithers RCMP sergeant Shaun Begg said the public needs to be aware that drug dealers don’t care about who they hurt.
“They [drug dealers] only care about making money and they will dilute and adulterate drugs with any agent they can to increase their profits,” he said.
Another 59 B.C. residents died in September 2016 from illicit drug overdoses – up from 49 in August –, bringing the total for the year so far to 555. That exceeds the 508 lives lost to drug overdoses in all of 2015.
Fentanyl continues to be detected in about 61 per cent of fatal drug overdoses, according to the latest statistics released by the B.C. Coroners Service. The 302 cases in which fentanyl was detected is more than triple the number for the same nine months of 2015.
More overdose deaths happened in the Fraser Health region – 195 so far in 2016 – than Vancouver Coastal (128), Vancouver Island (107) or the Northern region (32).
A multi-prong response strategy has been underway since the province declared a public health emergency in April and created a dedicated task force in July. Efforts include making naloxone much more widely available to reverse overdoses in progress.
The strategy also aims to block fentanyl production and distribution, increase harm-reduction options, foster greater public education and increase the number of addiction recovery beds.
While the provincial health officer always advises against the use of illicit drugs, those using illegal drugs are urged to use extreme caution. People who take illicit drugs should not use alone, should inject slowly and use supervised consumption services when possible.
People are urged to take immediate action to aid anyone overdosing, including the use of naloxone, which is available in take-home kits that can quickly prevent an overdose from becoming fatal. Call 9-1-1 at the first sign of distress, such as trouble breathing or loss of consciousness.
– With files from Jeff Nagel and Chris Gareau