In the photo: Fentanyl can be found in pills sold as fake oxys and other club drugs, in powder as heroin or fentanyl, and can be mixed in to other drugs like cocaine and crystal meth. Photo courtesy of Fentanyl Safety.
According to the BC Coroners Service, from January 1 to October 31, 2016 there were 622 overdose (OD) deaths due to illicit drug use across BC. Fentanyl was detected in 60% of them. 147 of the deaths occurred in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, including 124 in Vancouver, 7 in Richmond, 5 in Powell River and 5 in North Vancouver.
From January 1 to November 26, 2016 there were 6,016 illicit or unknown drug overdoses presenting to VCH emergency departments (ED). More than one quarter of them (1,679) were opioid related. 85% of them went to hospitals in Vancouver. The majority (72%) of them to St. Paul’s Hospital.
The substance isn’t known for almost half (43%) of all presenting overdoses. When the substance was known the most commonly patient-reported substance was heroin (23%).
The majority of overdoses occurred in males (70%) and those aged 19 to 59 years.
Approximately 9% of overdose patients were admitted to hospital while 74% of patients were discharged from the ED and 17% left against medical advice.
Of overdose patients to VCH urban EDs 47% live in Vancouver, 4% were from Richmond, 6% were from Coastal Urban, and 1% were from Coastal Rural. The majority of Vancouver residents were from City Centre and the Downtown Eastside. The remaining patients live in other health authority regions or didn’t state where they are from.
In VCH rural hospitals (Bella Coola General Hospital, RW Large Memorial Hospital, Sechelt Hospital, and Powell River General Hospital) OD reporting began in June 2016. Since then there have been 15 ODs reported, of which one was opioid related. Of these 15 OD’s, 7 were admitted, 2 were transferred, 3 were discharged, 1 left against medical advice, 1 resulted in death, and for 1 the outcome was unknown.
Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care are extremely concerned about the high number of overdoses and overdose deaths in our region and throughout the province and continue to take steps to respond.
VCH & PHC and its partners are taking a number of steps to reduce opioid/fentanyl-related overdoses, including new actions this month:
- Distributed carfentanil warning to service providers
- Presented at public information forums in Richmond and North Vancouver
- In partnership with VANDU launched the mobile patrol pilot to recover used needles and provide education about substance use in DTES alleys.
- In partnership with PHS Community Services Society launched the Spikes on Bikes pilot to recover used needles and provide naloxone in DTES alleys
- Completed naloxone training of emergency department staff in Bella Coola so that overdose patients may take take-home naloxone kits home with them upon discharge. Made take-home naloxone available at the Whistler, Sechelt and Bella Bella hospitals. Currently the kits are available in 10 VCH urgent care centres and emergency departments to date.
- There are now 71 non-acute sites throughout VCH where take-home naloxone kits are available for the public. An online map is now available showing sites where people can obtain them, and aren’t required to be registered clients of the particular program.
- Posted a checklist to guide protocols at housing facilities to prevent overdoses.
We are also finalizing several other strategies; details will be released in the coming weeks and months.
For a complete list of actions to date and info about overdose prevention such as how to use naloxone and where free take-home kits are available visit www.vch.ca/overdose.