For the first time, drug checking is being offered to clients at Insite so that they can see if their drugs contain fentanyl. So far in the first month of checking, when clients checked heroin or mixtures containing heroin, fentanyl was found in 90 per cent of drugs.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate narcotic, a prescription drug used primarily for cancer patients in severe pain. It is roughly 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine.
According to BC Coroners Service, from January 1 to July 31, 2016 there have been 433 illicit drug overdose (OD) deaths across BC. Fentanyl was detected in approximately 62% of these deaths.
“These initial results confirm our suspicion that the local drug supply is overwhelmingly contaminated with fentanyl,” says Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, medical health officer. “We’re hoping this information can help people who use drugs.”
The results are being posted regularly at Insite for clients to view.
“With the number of overdoses rising it’s critical to empower people to learn about their risk of being exposed to this toxic substance. We’re hoping this will encourage them to use our harm reduction services like take-home naloxone kits, consider undergoing addiction treatment and take precautions like decreasing their dose or not using alone.”
This service is currently being offered as a pilot. After several months, staff will evaluate the results to determine if it’s helping clients and whether to continue the service.
For details about this pilot, read the news release.
For more information about overdoses, including how to recognize the signs of an early overdose, where to get free naloxone kits which can reverse overdoses, visit www.vch.ca/overdose.