911 overdose calls increase in B.C. as opioid crisis continues

KAMLOOPS — More than seven years after the opioid crisis was declared, B.C. Emergency Health Services are seeing an unprecedented increase in overdose calls. On June 21st, paramedics responded to 221 calls a new daily record in B.C.

“Those are loved ones of somebody,” President of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC Troy Clifford told CFJC Today. “They’re people that have a you know there’s still a stigma around drugs and addiction. I think we’re grappling with as a society how to handle these things.”

This year, 1,018 deaths have been reported as a result of Illicit drugs (Numbers updated to the end of May 2023). Eighty-five per cent of those deaths were fentanyl related. Now another drug is adding to the danger.

“We are also seeing high contamination of some other drugs like benzodiazepine that increases the chance of overdose and increases the likelihood of the complications after using substances which is also concerning.” Medical Health Officer with Interior Health Dr. Fatemeh Sabet said.

In the City of Kamloops, 38 people have died this year due to Illicit drugs. Dr. Sabet says the overdose crisis is a complex problem that needs to be tackled with different strategies.

“Providing safe supply to individuals is one of the strategies,” said Sabet. “Having Naloxone kits available to individuals, having drug checking services so people can check their source of substances that they use and if they’re finding that their sources of substances are highly contaminated they take extra precaution.”

In the event that people do use drugs, Clifford stresses the importance of using it safely and not to feel ashamed to call for help if needed.

“If you’re gonna use, don’t use alone. Make sure you’re aware of where you’re getting safe supply. All of those good practices so that if there’s a situation don’t hesitate to call for help. We don’t want anybody to be deterred for calling for help in their time of need.”

911 overdose calls increase in B.C. as opioid crisis continues