Since 2009, Fentanyl has been linked to at least 655 deaths in Canada – almost 1 every 3 days. In the Vancouver area especially, Fentanyl has been making headlines more frequently as Fentanyl-laced oxycodone, heroin, and other ‘party drugs’ have resulted in the deaths of many recreational drug users.
Given the spike in overdose deaths, it’s believed there is an increased amount of fentanyl in circulation. Those who use these drugs, even on a recreational basis, should be aware of the increased danger, especially as they may be unaware of what they are taking.
In the VCH region the majority of people dying from using fentanyl are not from the Downtown Eastside. They are mostly recreational drug users who are snorting or smoking drugs. Most people are not aware that there is fentanyl in their drugs.
Fentanyl is a synthetic narcotic that is 50-100 times more toxic than other opioids. The dose must be carefully monitored to avoid accidental overdose. This makes it particularly high risk for people who have never used opioids or for people who may mistakenly use fentanyl thinking it is something else.
Follow these tips to reduce the chance of experiencing an overdose:
Use caution even when handling fentanyl as it can be absorbed through the skin or mucous membranes. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if you get any on your skin since even small quantities absorbed through skin & mucous membranes can cause serious adverse reactions, including death.
, which provides supervised drug injection services in the Downtown Eastside, has managed overdoses related to fentanyl, VCH staff there have been able to reverse the effects, resulting in zero deaths in the facility.
Fentanyl is sometimes used in the management of complex pain. It must be prescribed by a physician and the dose should be carefully monitored.