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Health authority urges drug testing following surge in overdoses

Substance known as “down” contains deadly fentanyl
“Down” use drives up overdose rate in Terrace and area. (Black Press file photo)

Health care officials are urging drug users in Terrace and area to get their drugs tested following an increase in the number of reported overdoses from a substance known as “down.”

It’s sold in a variety of colours and contains both benzos and fentanyl which can cause overdoses and heavy, prolonged sedation.

Benzos or benzodiazepines are a type of sedative medication prescribed to help with anxiety and insomnia while fentanyl is a synthetic opioid typically prescribed for extreme pain.

As it is, Terrace already ranks high in the number of overdoses and deaths from overdoses in the province.

From January to August 2022 Northern Health experienced a rate of drug toxicity deaths of 52.4 deaths per 100,000 people, the third highest rate in the province.

The Northwest Health Service Delivery Area, which includes Terrace, Prince Rupert and Kitimat, was among the top five areas for death rates in the province.

The warning about “down” is one of several issued for the Terrace area in the last several years.

As a response, Northern Health installed a drug testing machine in Terrace last spring, just one of two in the north, at its safe injection site in the city. The other is in Prince George.

At a cost of $50,000, the Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) machine allows a technician to check what’s in a drug. The machine can test a range of substances, including opioids, stimulants, and other psychoactive drugs such as MDMA.

Since its installation last spring, technicians have tested 50 samples to the end of December.

Health officials are also advising drug users and others to carry naloxone and to not use alone.

The drug testing machine is located at the health authority’s Intensive Case Management Team offices at 101-4450 Greig Ave. and is in use Monday to Tuesday and Thursday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays).


About the Author: Rod Link

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