It was a staggering start to January for communities in the Interior Health region, with nine people dying from drug overdoses within a five day period – a harsh reality of the creation and distribution of illicit drugs.
Sometimes referred to as “bad batches” or “clusters,” the distribution of illegal drugs with potent amounts of fentanyl – and in a few cases carfentanil – has been the culprit behind a handful of these kinda of deaths across the province.
Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall suggested the deaths may be due to a new dealer entering the region, “who doesn’t know how to mix the drugs in anything-less-than a dangerous way.”
“These deaths might represent the first sort of trial batch that somebody’s mixed up and put out into the community,” he said.
Although she said she could only speculate, health officials believe these kinds of spikes in death carry a strong link to a specific supply of contaminated drugs, said Dr. Patricia Daly, executive director of the B.C. Overdose Emergency Response Centre.
“That’s often when you see clusters or rises in death, from a more contaminated drug supply,” Daly said during a news conference Wednesday, adding that clusters of deaths are investigated through the B.C. Coroners Service.
Black Press Media reached out to comment from the RCMP on its investigation into the deaths, but a spokesperson for the force declined to comment.
Not the first cluster of overdoses since fentanyl increase
In the summer of 2017, Fraser Health Authority released a warning similar to IHA’s alert on Jan. 26, after five people died from overdoses within nine hours in Abbotsford.
Officials urged drug users to not do drugs alone, to not mix different drugs and to carry naloxone.
Vancouver Coastal Health, serving the region seeing the lions share of drug overdose deaths, have taken increased measures to get the word out when bad drugs are detected on the streets.
The RADAR pilot project was launched in July, a texting service that sends an alert to those signed up when emergency crews attend to a number of overdose in a certain area within a short time frame.
Kendall has urged British Columbians in the past to become informed about the federal Good Samaritan Law, which protects people from charges of possession if they call 9-1-1 to report an overdose.