Deadly fentanyl tide on the rise in region

"Our huge concern that people are buying stuff, even marijuana that is perceived as a soft drug, and it is laced with fentanyl."

  • Apr. 20, 2016 5:00 p.m.
The rising use of fentanyl

The rising use of fentanyl

Carolyn Grant

Last week provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency over a significant increase in drug-related overdoses and deaths throughout B.C.

The action will allow medical health officers throughout the province to collect more robust, real-time information on overdoses in order to identify immediately where risks are arising and take proactive action to warn and protect people who use drugs.

Of particular concern to health officials is the rising use of fentanyl, which is being detected in more and more overdose deaths.

While you may be tempted to think hard drugs are more of a big city problem, that is not necessarily so, says Kimberley RCMP Cpl. Chris Newel.

“You see harder drugs and you think big city,” he said. “But we are seeing more than we’d like to. More so in Cranbrook than in Kimberley, but traffickers go back and forth between all the communities. Just because someone was arrested in Cranbrook doesn’t mean they weren’t operating in Kimberley, Wasa, Moyie.

“Our huge concern that people are buying stuff, even marijuana that is perceived as a soft drug, and it is laced with fentanyl — a highly addictive, potentially fatal drug.”

According the National Institute of Drug Abuse, fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine. It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery.

EK Addictions has been very active in trying to get information on opioid overdoses in the East Kootenay out to the public and to users since fentanyl began appearing in the area in 2014.

Dean Nicholson from EK Addictions says fentanyl arrived on the scene suddenly in January of 2014.

“We began to see a rash of young people coming in reporting oxycontin use but finding it was laced with fentanyl,” he said. “We saw it in Cranbrook and Invermere the most but it is all over the East Kootenay. We immediately put out a public notice.

“We have seen local overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal. There was a fatal overdose in Invermere just a couple of weeks ago.”

The problem is exacerbated, he says, by the fact that some of the green pills being sold on the streets as fentanyl, is not even real fentanyl.

“Originally, you’d find fentanyl being sold as oxycontin. But as oxycontin became a drug of abuse, pharmaceuticals changed the formula, making it harder to grind up and inject. And there was a clamp down on opioid prescriptions. The supply dwindled. Real fentanyl is hard to get. It is mainly used in hospital settings.

“So organized crime started to look at synthetically produced fentanyl. That’s what we see on the streets. There is no quality control. Quality varies tremendously.”

This leads to another huge problem. While EK Addictions is a partner in the distribution of  naloxone kits to be administered in case of overdoses, some of this synthetic fentanyl is not an opioid at all, which means naloxone won’t work.

“In talking to people at Ponderosa House, which is the treatment facility in the East Kootenay, they are finding that people aren’t responding to the opioid treatment. Some fentanyl on the streets has no opioids at all. There is a huge risk of overdose.

“Naloxone will reverse an overdose of opioids and we are trying to get it into the hands of street people, but it’s not going to work on some of these drugs. We don’t know what these drugs are. If the drug doesn’t have opioids, and the person is not responding to naloxone, that person needs to get to emergency.”

If you require assistance with a family member, friend or your own use of any drug, EK Addictions is there for you. They have an office in every EK community. You can contact them at 1-877-489-4344. Other agencies that can be of assistance are Ankors in EK at 250-426-3383; Street Angels at 250-420-2756 and Ktunaxa Health at 250-420-2700.

“Mixing fentanyl with street-sold heroin or cocaine markedly amplifies their potency and potential dangers. Effects include: euphoria, drowsiness/respiratory depression and arrest, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, unconsciousness, coma, tolerance, and addiction,” the NIDA says.

In BC, the increase in the proportion of illicit drug overdose deaths for which fentanyl was detected (alone or in combination with other drugs) :

2012 – 5%

2013 -15%

2014- 25%

2015- 31% (approximate – not all investigations are concluded)

There were 474 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths in 2015, which is a 30 per cent increase in deaths from 2014 (365 deaths).

By declaring a health emergency, health authorities will have more ability to collect information on overdoses, both fatal and those circumstances where the victim recovers, from font line responders.

This information will help prevent future overdoses and deaths by better targeting outreach, bad drug warnings, awareness campaigns and distribution of naloxone training and kits. It will help health care workers connect with vulnerable communities and provide take-home naloxone to the people who need it. The information will be collected by the provincial health officer and analyzed at a provincial level by the BC Centre for Disease Control to better inform management of this public health crisis.

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Cranbrook Arts has opened the doors of their  new gallery space to the public with their inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best.
‘Kootenay’s Best’ opens Cranbrook Arts’ new gallery

This exhibit has been in the works for the past several months and features the work of more than 50 emerging and established artists from across the Kootenays

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read