130 overdoses in one day has B.C. premier, addiction expert sounding alarm

130 overdoses in one day has B.C. premier, addiction expert sounding alarm

Advocates, researchers calling for more effort to reduce opioid crisis in British Columbia

One of British Columbia’s top addiction experts joined Premier John Horgan Monday in calling for increased efforts to fight the ravages of illegal drug use after a report of 130 overdoses in one day last week.

Horgan said he’s thankful there were no deaths from any of the overdoses reported on Friday, but the staggering number reveals the amount of work ahead to battle the crisis.

Dr. Evan Wood, director at the BC Centre on Substance Use, said the unofficial number of overdose cases was likely much higher last Friday as injection site volunteers, public and private citizens and other drug users helped others in distress.

“If there were 130 ambulance calls, you could image there were many other overdoses where there were other drug users offering naloxone or service workers providing naloxone,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. paramedics respond to five overdose calls an hour Friday

Naloxone, widely available in British Columbia, is a life-saving medication that can stop or reverse an opioid overdose.

BC Emergency Health Services said paramedics responded to 130 suspected overdose calls on July 27, a statistic only seen once before in April of last year.

The service said in a statement on Twitter that news about the high number of overdoses should be made widely known and it urged drug users not to use substances alone.

“To think that happened 130 times last week on one day is staggering for the public and speaks to the amount of work we have to do to get this scourge out of our cities and out of our province,” Horgan said. “With respect to the timing of this latest rash of overdoses, it strikes me these numbers are unprecedented, and our job is to make sure we’re doing more in the days ahead.”

The premier said the province is working to ensure paramedics have the tools to help people who overdose and that recovery facilities are able to help addicts to receive the care they need quickly.

Wood said he agrees with Horgan that more needs to be done to battle the overdose crisis.

“We need more of everything in terms of what the premier is saying,” said Wood. “We need more effective harm-reduction services. The big gap is being able to go into harm-reduction services and steer people to get them off toxic opioids.”

He said the wider health-care system itself must turn towards addiction treatment after decades of unfocused attention.

“In the same way that primary care physicians can see somebody who has high blood pressure or who has become pregnant or who has diabetes they need to be able to say, ‘OK, I know exactly what we need to do,’ ” said Wood. “It took a long time to get into this mess and it’s going to be some time to get out of it.”

The latest BC Coroners Service provincial overdose numbers posted on June 25 included 109 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths in May, a figure 23 per cent lower than the overdose deaths for May 2017.

The Coroners Service stated there were 620 suspected overdose deaths up to the end of May this year. There were 1,449 overdose deaths in B.C. in 2017, the Coroners Service reported.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton city council heard from Dhorea Ramanula, of Paid Employment for People with Lived Experiences Tuesday, Jan. 19. Ramanula’s organization has operated public washrooms in Kelowna staffed by community support workers since April, she says Penticton could benefit from a similar facility. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)
Penticton interested in new public washroom concept to combat vandalism

Public washrooms with on-site support staff have been operating in Kelowna since April

The next Canadian census will be held in May, 2021. The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is urging its residents to complete the census form online. (Statistics Canada)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen urges participation in census

National census will be held in May, 2021 with COVID-19 protocols in place

Canada Post had remove a lot of letter boxes around Penticton after they were vandalized. This letter box at the United Church on Main St. remains unscathed. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Street mailbox vandals strike Penticton drop boxes

Canada Post had to remove a bunch of the vandalized units

Medical chief of staff Dr. Brad Raison of Penticton Regional Hospital and John Moorhouse of the Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation look over one of the rooms in the David E. Kampe Tower in 2017 while the tower was under construction. (Western News File)
After 46 years in media, Moorhouse retires

John Moorhouse spent the last six years with the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation

The BC SPCA is adapting its fundraising after cancelling events due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
BC SPCA gets creative with fundraising as pandemic continues

The non-profit’s in-person fundraising events all had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions

A rendering of UBC’s planned downtown Kelowna campus. (Contributed)
Kelowna’s new downtown campus to help alleviate UBCO’s space crunch

The sizable development is anticipated to be completed by the fall 2024 semester

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with an influenza outbreak amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Two more deaths at Vernon care home

Noric House case numbers remain steady, but death toll rises

A petition to spare the Mount Rose Swanson area from logging later this year has eclipsed 21,000 signatures as of Jan. 20, 2021. (Rose Swanson Mountain/Facebook)
Controversial logging will cut 4% of ‘sensitive’ Armstrong forest area: Ministry

A petition to spare the Rose Swanson area from logging has eclipsed 21,000 signatures

Vernon firefighters douse a fire inside a cardboard bin behind the Shops at Polson off Highway 6 Wednesday, Jan. 20. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
PHOTOS: Dumpster fire behind Vernon shopping mall

Vernon Fire Rescue Services respond doused recycling bin fire backing onto Polson Park

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Most Read