Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall

Cold adds risk as drug overdoses soar

People using opioid drugs alone have little time to react to overdose, 128 deaths across B.C. in November alone

Cold weather has meant more B.C. illicit drug users overdose alone at home, in public washroom stalls or on deserted streets, pushing B.C.’s highest-ever drug death total to new heights.

The isolation of drug users, and the likely introduction of even more lethal synthetic opioids into the street drug supply, contributed to 128 B.C. overdose deaths in November, provincial health officials said Monday. That brings the total deaths in B.C. to 755 for the year, up 70 per cent from last year, with little relief in sight for December.

“We are seeing people die with a naloxone kit open beside then, and they haven’t had time to use it,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s Chief Coroner, referring to the overdose treatment that has been made widely available.

By the end of December, the B.C. government expects to have 18 “overdose prevention sites” open in high-risk areas, including Surrey, Victoria, Prince George, Kelowna, Kamloops, Maple Ridge, Langley, Abbotsford and Vancouver.

Health Minister Terry Lake issued an emergency order Dec. 9 to open the new supervised sites without permission from the federal government.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall pleaded with affected communities to stop their protests against overdose prevention sites. The supervised sites will save lives, “and what they will not do is bring problems into communities,” because the drugs and users are already there, Kendall said.

Clayton Pecknold, B.C.’s director of police services, said he is encouraged by the latest federal government efforts to intercept synthetic drugs coming from China by mail. But there are still federal drug enforcement positions vacant, he said.

The potent synthetic drug fentanyl has been detected in about half of overdose cases, and even more powerful derivatives may be coming into B.C.

In a statement, provincial officials said 300 drug treatment beds have been opened and another 100 coming in the next month and the goal of 500 reached by the end of March.

Kendall said there is too much emphasis on treatment beds, when what is needed is a “continuum of services” to keep drug addicts from relapsing and move them to alternatives such as methadone.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

School District 82’s first week of in-person class is in the books

First classes held since schools closed March 17 due to COVID-19 pandemic

Skeena Valley Farmers Market looks to reopen

Market switched to online format earlier this year in response to pandemic

Two per cent hotel tax coming to Terrace and Thornhill

Tax comes into effect on Sept. 1, will support Kermodei Tourism

‘Busier than we’ve ever seen’: Mountain biking around Terrace jumps

Terrace Off Road Cycling Association opened new trails on June 2

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Facing changes together: your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

‘Great Regional Air Hug’ being organized by the Vanderhoof International Airshow Society

A multi-aircraft flyover over the region is being planned for August 15.

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

Most Read