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Overdose prevention & response

Overdose rates in B.C. are dramatically on the rise. In April 2016, it was declared a public health emergency. Vancouver Coastal Health is 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. Learn about drug checking services and about opioids.

Access services

An overdose is when more drugs have been taken than the body can handle. The toxic drug supply over the past four years has led to many unintended overdoses or “poisonings".

 Learn the signs of an overdose

Naloxone training - Toward the Heart - Learn how to respond to an overdose

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 drugs, 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, BC Bereavement Helpline and the Affected Persons Liaison with the BC Coroners Service have developed Gone too soon: Navigating grief and loss as a result of 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 tragedy, either directly or through family, friends, and media attention to this emergency.

 Letter to parents and caregivers about drug overdose
 Talking to youth about drug overdoses
Free youth addiction services

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.

 What youth need to know about drug overdoses
 Youth handout: Reduce your risk of a drug overdose
Free youth addiction services


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 per cent of BC Corrections inmates are diagnosed with a substance use disorder.

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

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

Help us warn people about contaminated street drugs

If someone ODs, 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 take home naloxone kit. The training is free and takes 20 minutes. Find the nearest Take Home Naloxone site in the VCH area with the map below. For sites across BC, visit Toward the Heart - Site Locator

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 BC Centre for Disease Control, has created a Fentanyl-induced muscle rigidity tip sheet

Our team of outreach 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: 

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

  • Ordering VCH staff naloxone kits and BCCDC Take Home Naloxone kits, including training supplies;

  • Becoming a THN kit dispensing site;

  • Relevant VCH and BCCDC practice guidelines and policies;

  • Relevant community overdose response resources


Overdose prevention checklist - A checklist for service providers who work with people who use drugs, 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.

Monthly overdose statistics

Learn more on our weekly overdose surveillance updates page.

Vancouver Coastal Health (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.

SOURCE: Overdose prevention & response ( )
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