With the Fentanyl crisis continuing and a new far more potent drug rearing its head Heath officials are sounding the alarm about overdose deaths.
BC’s Chief Coroner Lisa LaPointe says overdose deaths have skyrocketed and she puts that into context
“For example, last year there were 300 deaths in motor vehicle incidents, and this year, as the Minister said, we’ve had 308 deaths already from illicit drug overdoses. And if this trend were to continue, we’d be looking at about 750 deaths this year. So it’s hugely significant. The number of people dying from illicit drug overdoses is higher than any other unnatural category.”
Health minister Terry Lake is hopeful the numbers of overdosed have leveled off he admits more help like supervised injection sites are needed.
He says he has written the federal government to allow for more safe injection sites to be set up.
“Vancouver Coastal Health is looking at five new safe consumption sites. I have written a letter to Minister Philpott asking her to reconsider Bill C-2, the Respect for Safe Communities Act and reduce the barriers to the opening of safe consumption sites.”
Lake was asked if a broad decriminalization of drugs would help?
While saying that is a federal government issue, he did offer the following comment.
“Any politician I have talked to understands the so called war on drugs has been a failure. We need to have different approaches. That will take some time. I commend our federal government for taking a different approach in terms of harm reduction, supports, and taking a different approach to marijuana policy as well.”
Leading cause of death
With 308 deaths illicit drug overdose fatalities are now the leading cause of unnatural death in the province.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says the number of overdose deaths has surpassed car crash deaths in BC.
Lapointe says OD’s might exceed 700 deaths this year.
The Coroner’s Service says there have been 25 fentanyl related deaths in the Interior in the first four months of 2016, with 10 in Kelowna and two in Vernon.
Could have been worse
While a shocking number of people have died from overdoses the numbers could actually have been much worse.
BC Centre for Disease Control Executive Medical Director Mark Tyndall says naloxone has saved lives after kits were issued province wide.
“8,000. And there has been a reported 1,200 uses of these to reverse overdoses in the province so far.”
However with a much more potent drug rearing its head with W-18 BC’s Chief Medical Health officer Dr. Perry Kendall admits naloxone might not help.
“Yeah there is some concern.”
BC Centre for Disease Control Executive Medical Director Mark Tyndall says the affects of W-18 have yet to be determined.
“We don’t know. It has been a very hard compound to identify. So I would say no we don’t have any documented evidence that W-18 has been responsible for deaths but it is an ongoing thing we need to determine.”
Police found W-18 after busting several different drug labs in the lower mainland.
The synthetic opioid is one-hundred-times more potent than Fentanyl.
Too late for some
But for some it’s already too late… like Leslie McBain, who lost her son more than two years ago to a fatal drug overdose.
“It’s ripping off our communities. We’re denied that person for the rest of time.”
McBain thinks the days of telling kids “don’t do drugs” are over.
“Kids in middle school up to the end of high school need to know what drugs are out there, and if they make the decision to do drugs, what they need to know to stay alive.”
She believes how parents go about educating kids about drugs as a whole needs to change.
Regulating pill presses is one idea some provinces are looking at to battle the spread of illicit drugs and the explosion of Fentanyl overdoses.
Health minister Terry Lake says it isn’t going to solve the problem on its own but it is a good idea, and one he and Public Safety minister Mike Morris have taken to Ottawa.
“He had this discussion with his federal counterpart as well. I have had this discussion with Health Canada and in fact Ottawa is looking at this. It would be far more effective to have a federal law so that we have consistent approach across the country because if one province does it and another doesn’t it would be easy to move those pill presses across provincial borders.”
READ MORE: Call for action to regulate pill presses
Lake says the province is willing to work with the feds on any idea to battle opioid overdose deaths.
In Alberta the province has passed a bill requiring owners of pill presses to have licenses and jail time and heavy fines for those who get caught without one.