In 2018, illicit drug overdoses killed at least 1,489 in BC, according to the BC Coroners Service, with Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe saying “the rate of overdose deaths (due to opioid crisis) surpasses the numbers of people dying from car crashes, homicides and suicides combined.”
BC’s overdose rates were declared a public health emergency in April 2016, but the death toll has only climbed since then.
In some of BC’s hardest hit areas, it can resemble a warzone, which highlights the disastrous effects of the War on Drugs, which could more accurately be called a “War on the Poor and Minorities”. But drug overdoses aren’t only relegated to vulnerable neighbourhoods like Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or Surrey’s Whalley Strip. It happens all across the province and in all communities, especially as powerful opioids are increasingly tainting other drugs.
Just a few weeks ago, during the March 1-3 weekend, BC paramedics responded to 122 suspected overdoses. 74 were from Vancouver and 20 calls came from Surrey, according to the Global News, and some of these overdoses were linked to tainted cocaine.
Now that fentanyl and other opioids are finding their way into party drugs like cocaine and ecstasy, it puts recreational, weekend drug users who do not use opioids at increased risk of overdose, especially since they have little to no tolerance to the opioids that may be mixed into their drugs.
Due to the fact that these drugs are illegal, it’s often hard to verify that the drugs you’re buying are what you think they are, which makes taking them risky. But the good news is that there are many harm-reduction programs and services available to help people stay safe and prevent overdoses, such as…
Free drug testing to prevent drug overdose
Vancouver Coastal Health offers free drug-checking services. You just need to give a little sample and about 4 minutes of your time. This service can help you to avoid any kind of opioid crisis.
These services are offered Monday-Friday at select locations and times, which includes Insite, multiple Overdose Prevention Sites, and St. Paul’s Hospital on Burrard St.
The full schedule is available here: Spectrometer-Drug-Checking-Services
Get a naloxone kit to avoid opioid crisis
Naloxone can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and save lives. Naloxone kits are available at pharmacies across the country and do not require a prescription. It is a good idea to have a Naloxene kit to avoid opioid crisis.
To find out where you can get a Naloxone kit in your province, click here.
Use supervised consumption services
These are safe spaces where people can use drugs under the care of medical professionals. Also known as supervised injection sites, the term “supervised consumption” is used to indicate that they aren’t restricted to the use of injection drugs only- drugs that are snorted can be consumed here, as well as inhaled drugs in some cases.