130 overdoses in one day has B.C. premier, addiction expert sounding alarm

Advocates, researchers calling for more effort to reduce opioid crisis in British Columbia

One of British Columbia’s top addiction experts joined Premier John Horgan Monday in calling for increased efforts to fight the ravages of illegal drug use after a report of 130 overdoses in one day last week.

Horgan said he’s thankful there were no deaths from any of the overdoses reported on Friday, but the staggering number reveals the amount of work ahead to battle the crisis.

Dr. Evan Wood, director at the BC Centre on Substance Use, said the unofficial number of overdose cases was likely much higher last Friday as injection site volunteers, public and private citizens and other drug users helped others in distress.

“If there were 130 ambulance calls, you could image there were many other overdoses where there were other drug users offering naloxone or service workers providing naloxone,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. paramedics respond to five overdose calls an hour Friday

Naloxone, widely available in British Columbia, is a life-saving medication that can stop or reverse an opioid overdose.

BC Emergency Health Services said paramedics responded to 130 suspected overdose calls on July 27, a statistic only seen once before in April of last year.

The service said in a statement on Twitter that news about the high number of overdoses should be made widely known and it urged drug users not to use substances alone.

“To think that happened 130 times last week on one day is staggering for the public and speaks to the amount of work we have to do to get this scourge out of our cities and out of our province,” Horgan said. “With respect to the timing of this latest rash of overdoses, it strikes me these numbers are unprecedented, and our job is to make sure we’re doing more in the days ahead.”

The premier said the province is working to ensure paramedics have the tools to help people who overdose and that recovery facilities are able to help addicts to receive the care they need quickly.

Wood said he agrees with Horgan that more needs to be done to battle the overdose crisis.

“We need more of everything in terms of what the premier is saying,” said Wood. “We need more effective harm-reduction services. The big gap is being able to go into harm-reduction services and steer people to get them off toxic opioids.”

He said the wider health-care system itself must turn towards addiction treatment after decades of unfocused attention.

“In the same way that primary care physicians can see somebody who has high blood pressure or who has become pregnant or who has diabetes they need to be able to say, ‘OK, I know exactly what we need to do,’ ” said Wood. “It took a long time to get into this mess and it’s going to be some time to get out of it.”

The latest BC Coroners Service provincial overdose numbers posted on June 25 included 109 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths in May, a figure 23 per cent lower than the overdose deaths for May 2017.

The Coroners Service stated there were 620 suspected overdose deaths up to the end of May this year. There were 1,449 overdose deaths in B.C. in 2017, the Coroners Service reported.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Darrell Paulovich remembered after accident claims his life

A tragic accident claimed the life of a rodeo advocate over the weekend

Sylvan Lake’s first Habitat for Humanity project breaks ground

The ground breaking ceremony was held Thursday morning at the build site.

Amended bylaw allows accessible taxis from out of town

Sylvan Lake Town Council amended the Vehicle for Hire bylaw at the Tuesday night meeting

RCMP charge two in Leslieville Bar armed robbery

Two men have been charged in connection with an armed robbery while RCMP search for the third

Canadian author and historian talks about the secret life of WWI soldiers

Tim Cook talks about how new book looks at the soldiers’ rich culture that thrived during the war

Secret supper clubs test appetite for cannabis-infused food ahead of legalization

Chefs are eagerly awaiting pot edibles to become legal in Canada

Andrew Scheer on revamped NAFTA deal: ‘I would have signed a better one’

Conservative leader says he wouldn’t have signed USMCA

Dad files Charter challenge after B.C. bans kids from taking transit unsupervised

Adrian Crook is taking his fight to B.C. Supreme Court

Police investigate alleged arson at Toronto hotel housing asylum seekers

Police believe the fire was started intentionally, but they have not spelled out a possible motive

WATCH: Lots of rodeo action at Cowboy Classic Finals Rodeo

Many Red Deer contestants will be competing all weekend long

Atlantic Canada sees heavy rains, winds from post-tropical storm Michael

Parts of Newfoundland were forecast to get up to 40 millimetres before the storm is set to head out to sea

High times: optimism in Smiths Falls, the little town that marijuana saved

Home to fewer than 9,000 people, the Ontario town had become all too familiar with the pain of economic hardship over the years

UPDATE: Man dies in fiery multi-vehicle collision near Ponoka

Icy roads considered a factor in a serious three-vehicle collision on Highway 2

Most Read