Carfentanil causing huge spike in deaths: FHA

A drug 100 times more lethal than fentanyl, is killing addicts in the Fraser Health region.

Carfentanil has made it into the Surrey area and is killing heroin users rapidly.

Fraser Health now believes a huge spike in overdose deaths last month could be due to a drug 100 times more lethal than fentanyl.

Fraser Health Authority’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr.Victoria Lee, told The Leader Monday she believes carfentanil, a tranquilizer 100 times more potent than fentanyl, has been killing addicts at an extremely rapid rate.

“Carfentanil, of course, is shown to be circulating in Vancouver,” Lee said. “I have also had within Fraser Health Region some confirmations around that.”

The B.C. Coroners Office is reporting that there were 128 overdose deaths in November, more than doubling the provincial average per month since 2015, which is 55.

The isolation of drug users, and the likely introduction of even more lethal synthetic opioids into the street drug supply, are cited as causes. It 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.

Lee believes that now even addicts who are street wise to fentanyl are getting killed by the carfentanil.

“The level of spike and the surge that we saw in November is likely due to carfentanil circulating more broadly,” Lee said. “Something unusual happened in November.”

She said part of that spike could be due to people coming out of the cold.

Surrey now has two safe consumption sites in place, however overdoses have skyrocketed in this region as a cold snap took hold.

“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.

Surrey’s sites are near the Front Room Drop-In Centre in the 10600-block of 135A Street and at Quibble Creek Sobering Centre, at 13670 94A Avenue.

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.

Dave Leary, spokesperson for the union representing B.C. paramedics, said Monday he’s seen a tremendous spike in the Whalley area, but also an increase in overdoses in the Guildford and Newton areas.

Most heartbreaking of all, he said, is seeing the same patient several times a day.

This issue isn’t just about addicts, he said, because everyone is facing increased wait times for paramedics and other health care workers.

“It’s really taking a toll,” Leary said. “This isn’t just about the homeless and addicts… this is about patients in general, waiting. It could be your grandmother who’s having a stroke, your dad who’s having a heart attack… the wait times are there.”

Leary doesn’t see a way out of this until more treatment options are made available those looking to get off drugs.

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.

with files from Tom Fletcher

 

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

Just Posted

A Mercedes SUV is covered at a gas station in the Clayton area following a deadly shooting there on Sept. 28, 2019. (File photo)
Thomas Dawson Peacock
Surrey man, 32, charged with sexual interference

Incidents alleged to have happened in Surrey and Abbotsford

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region over the last week.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
CHARTS: Weekly COVID-19 case double in Fraser North health area, up 50% in Vancouver

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region.

BC Hockey League commissioner Chris Hebb says the league is still on track to begin regular-season play in early December. (BCHL photo)
BCHL still on track to begin regular season in December

Commish hopeful that league can “slide right into the regular season” after successful preseason

(Delta Police Department photo)
No offence in second incident involving a teen girl being approached in Tsawwassen: police

Police still investigating incident on Oct. 15 where teen girl was approached by older man in a burgundy car

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’: Animal activists set to enter not guilty plea in Abbotsford hog farm case

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Dennis Cholowski shows off a Jordan 2 Retro Just Don Blue sneaker, the type of shoe only a true sneakerhead would appreciate. (Facebook photo)
VIDEO: Chilliwack Chiefs alum Dennis Cholowski shows off ‘sneakerhead’ collection

The Detroit Red Wing has been spending his NHL paycheques building up an impressive closet of shoes

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Most Read