Skip to main content

Overdose prevention & response

Overdose rates in British Columbia (BC) are dramatically on the rise. In April 2016, a public health emergency was declared. We 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. Click to learn more about drug checking services and about opioids.

An overdose is when more drugs have been taken than the body can handle. Since 2016, the toxic drug supply has led to many unintended overdoses or “poisonings”.

If you use substances, follow these tips to reduce the chance of experiencing an overdose and to stay safe:          

Concerned about someone?

Having courageous conversations about substance use begins by being a good listener. Learn more about how to reach out to the people you care about. How to have courageous conversations - BC Gov

Stop Stigma

The opioid overdose emergency is affecting people from all walks of life, but those affected continue to feel stigmatized. Stigma, or negative attitudes or beliefs, can have a major impact on the quality of life of people who use substances, people in recovery and their families. It can prevent people from getting help. It can also reduce the quality of help people receive and make their condition worse.

Learn how you can stop stigma - Visit the Government of Canada webpage on stigma

Grieving a loved one

The BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), BC Bereavement Helpline, and the Affected Persons Liaison with the BC Coroners Service have developed a handbook to help people who have lost loved ones due to substance use.

For parents

While youth aged 10 to 18 are not considered high risk for an overdose death, school-aged youth are not untouched by this tragedy, either directly or through family, friends, and media attention to this emergency.

Mom’s Stop The Harm is another resource that supports “families impacted by substance-use related harms and deaths”.

For young people

Lots of people are talking about drug overdoses these days because more and more people in BC are having them, including some young people.


Recently released inmates (from custody)

Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for individuals recently released from prison. More than 17,000 inmates are released from BC Corrections every year. Approximately 30% of BC Corrections inmates are diagnosed with a substance use disorder. (Pearce & Buxton, 2016)

Studies have shown increased mortality due to drug overdose among people who were recently released from prison, especially within the first 2 weeks after being released.

Former inmates should be aware of this risk and access health services to reduce their risk:

Resisting stigma on substance use

Take this Resisting Stigma on Substance Use and the Downtown Eastside online training course to learn more about stigma and people who use drugs.

Advanced Overdose Response 

Take the Street Degree Advanced Overdose online training course to learn more about advanced approaches for responding to overdoses. It is designed for peers and other people working on the frontlines at overdose prevention site, supervised consumption sites and/or in outreach.   

Download the guide on how to access Online Street Degree.

Help us warn people about contaminated street drugs

If someone overdoses (OD’s), tell us what happened and we'll send out an overdose alert. Use one of the following methods:  

  1. Fill out this anonymous form to report an overdose

  2. Text “bad dope” to (236) 999-DOPE (3673)

Get drug contamination alerts

If you’d like to receive drug contamination alerts, text “alert” to (236) 999-DOPE (3673).

Unintentional deaths and injury from opioid overdose are preventable with overdose and naloxone education. Naloxone can quickly reverse an overdose. People can be trained to recognize and respond to an overdose by using a free THN kit. The training is also free and takes 20 minutes. Find the nearest THN site in the VCH area with the map below. For sites across BC, visit Toward the Heart - Site Locator

For VCH staff who want to learn how to distribute take-home-naloxone (THN) you can take the Distributing Naloxone to Clients course on Learning Hub. This was created for VCH staff (Nurses, MDs, Pharmacists, Allied Staff, etc) and takes about 1 hour or less to complete. It counts as being trained as a THN trainer after completing hands-on practice with the VanishPoint syringes drawing up the practice vials at your site. Most sites should have these training supplies through the BCCDC Towards-the-Heart naloxone program, and if not, they can register by filling out a New Site Registration Form, or email our Overdose Emergency Response (OER) team at and

Muscle rigidity

Fentanyl-induced muscle rigidity, also known as "chest wall rigidity" and "wooden chest syndrome" is a complication from injecting fentanyl intravenously. The thoracic muscles become rigid, and affect breathing. It can also impact the abdominal muscles and cause them to become rigid. It makes breathing hard, but naloxone can help. Toward the Heart, part of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), has created a Fentanyl-induced muscle rigidity tip sheet

Our team of outreach, peer support specialists and social workers provide connections for people who have recently experienced opioid overdose and/or are at high risk for opioid overdose to substance use care and support. 

We help clients through:

  • Navigation to appropriate services (e.g., primary care, detox, treatment, etc.)

  • Support in accessing Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT) (e.g., methadone, suboxone, iOAT, etc.)

  • Overdose prevention education

Call (604) 360-2874 and visit the  Overdose Outreach Team page.

As part of Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) harm reduction strategy, and in response to the current provincial opioid overdose crisis, the Overdose Emergency Response (OER) team provides resources and direction on:

  • Training VCH staff to respond to and administer naloxone in the case of a suspected opioid overdose;

  • Training OPS and SCS site staff to prevent, identify and safely respond to overdoses 

  • Training and dispensing Take Home Naloxone (THN) kits to eligible clients;

  • Ordering VCH staff naloxone kits and BCCDC THN kits, including training supplies;

  • Becoming a THN kit dispensing site;

  • Relevant VCH and BCCDC practice guidelines and policies;

  • Relevant community overdose response resources


Episodic Overdose Prevention Service overview handout 
An overview of the harm reduction policy that allows clients to use substances at health and community service settings. 

Overdose prevention checklist 
A checklist for service providers who work with people who use substances, for developing overdose prevention and response policies and protocols.

Overdose Prevention Site (OPS) Manual 
A manual for service providers who work with people who use drugs, for developing overdose prevention and response policies and protocols (to develop OPS). 

Housing Overdose Prevention Site (HOPS) Manual 
A manual for service providers who work with people who use drugs, for developing overdose prevention and response policies and protocols within housing facilities (to develop HOPS).

Overdose prevention checklist for washrooms 
A manual for service providers who work with people who use drugs, for developing overdose prevention and response policies and protocols within washrooms.

Naloxone risk assessment tool for public sector organizations.

Harm reduction and substance use resources guide

Overdose Community of Practice: and you can sign up for email updates at 

Weekly overdose statistics

These updates summarize overdose visits in 9 EDs, and at supervised consumption services and overdose prevention sites within the VCH region. Visit the weekly overdose surveillance updates page.

Access services

Overdose prevention and supervised consumption site maps

Map, address and operating hours of overdose prevention sites and supervised consumption sites.

Supervised consumption & overdose prevention services (Map)

VCH provides health-care services through a network of hospitals, primary care clinics, community health centres and long-term care homes. Search our health-care services in Vancouver, Richmond, North and West Vancouver and along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, Sunshine Coast and BC's Central Coast. For other Health Authority OPS/SCS services in BC please click here or visit to search an area for an OPS/SCS and HR services and supplies.

SOURCE: Overdose prevention & response ( )
Page printed:

Copyright © Vancouver Coastal Health. All Rights Reserved.