By Nicole Trigg
The month of January saw 116 illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C., up almost 40 per cent from the year before. This number averages out to seven deaths every two days in January, and according to the BC Coroners Office, this sharp spike is unequivocally due to fentanyl.
The awareness displayed by local business leaders in training their staff on how to use naloxone kits to rescue someone suffering from a fentanyl overdose is reassuring and admirable. Acknowledging that the valley is a weekend or holiday getaway for many, and that, for some people, this getting away from it all includes the recreational use of illicit drugs, is the first step in preventing tragedy from taking place in the local communities.
January statistics reveal that individuals aged 30 to 39 accounted for 33.6 per cent of these 116 deaths, while ages 40 to 49 accounted for 25.9 per cent.
The statistics go so far as to reveal the days of the week someone is most likely to die of an illicit drug overdose Saturdays and Sundays and the gender that is most susceptible males accounted for 80.2 per cent of January ODs; and even the location 92.2 per cent of these deaths occurred inside.
What the statistics dont touch on is the danger these overdose situations pose to other people, not just the victim. Fentanyl is so strong that someone who is exposed to it in a rescue scenario, or even by being in the near vicinity, can accidentally ingest or even absorb it.
In November, a Winnipeg firefighter/paramedic had to be given a shot of naloxone by his colleagues when he started feeling the effects after assisting a possible fentanyl overdose victim. In B.C., officers with the Vancouver Police Department have been treated for overdose symptoms after seizing fentanyl powder. Back in Winnipeg, a nine-month-old child was hospitalized in a critical condition after what police suspect he came into contact with fentanyl residue found in his home (CBC, November 2016). Fentanyl is a problem thats not going away, but through education and action, we can be effective at keeping each other safe.