There were 44 reported overdoses in April in Penticton, prompting Interior Health to issue a public health alert warning of a possible tainted drug supply. (File photo)

Fentanyl contaminated stimulants a possible factor in April’s overdose spike: Interior Health

‘We have two public health emergencies going on at the same time,’ said Dr. Karin Goodison.

Calls for potential overdoses in Penticton doubled in April compared to the average, something Interior Health (IH) attributed to contaminated stimulants.

In January paramedics in Penticton responded to 18 calls for potential overdoses. In February, there were 19 calls, in March there were 24 and in April, 44. This is more than double the 15 potential overdoses in April, 2019.

According to BC Emergency Health Services, the average number of calls for potential overdoses in Penticton is 20 per month.

IH medical health officer, Dr. Karin Goodison, said the rise in overdoses may be attributed to stimulants contaminated with fentanyl. Reports from the public, she explained, detailed what people thought was a stimulant, which resulted in an overdose that responded to Naloxone.

Naloxone is an opioid blocker that can reverse the effects of an overdose caused by fentanyl and other opioids.

READ MORE: City of Penticton records all-time high for fatal overdoses

In response to the rising amount of overdoses, IH issued a public alert for Penticton on May 1 which was effective until May 8.

“There has been a large increase in 911 calls for ingestion poisoning (which includes overdose events) in Penticton. Reports from the community have identified increases in opioid overdoses in people using what they believed to stimulants,” reads the public alert.

“We have had reports of a substance with red ‘chunks’, pink substances and substances that ‘appear to look normal’ causing overdoses.”

Goodison said the recent rise in overdoses in Penticton are consistent with what’s happening in the rest of the province.

Opioid related overdoses have been largely responsible for a significant increase in deaths since 2014 and especially since 2016, when the opioid overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency.

READ MORE: B.C. sees 60% more overdose deaths in March compared to first two months of 2020

Despite physical distancing recommendations during COVID-19, Goodison stressed the importance of not using drugs alone.

“Even with COVID and physical distancing it’s really important to use drugs with a buddy and have someone check on you,” she said.

IH is still offering support services to people who are struggling with addiction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Goodison said IH wants people to be aware of the pandemic but also know that help is there if they need it.

“We want people to be able to access services because these are still essential services,” said Goodison.

“We have two public health emergencies going on at the same time.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, IH is still accepting people into their addictions treatment programs. IH also has a vulnerable person’s working group that is helping people with addictions find safe places to self-isolate and where they can continue to access their drug as they need it.

If using drugs, IH has issued the following guidelines to help people stay as safe as possible:

  • Check your drugs before you use – see below or drugchecking.ca for more info
  • When using your substance start with a small amount, then go slow.
  • Don’t use alone. Use with a buddy. Have someone check on you.
  • Carry a Naloxone kit and know how to use it
  • If you live in a shelter or supportive housing, use at the overdose prevention site.
  • Avoid using different drugs at the same time or using drugs and alcohol together.
  • Talk to your health care provider about accessing a safe supply.

Know the signs of overdose and how to respond:

  • Recognize the signs of an OD: slow or no breathing, gurgling or gasping, lips/fingertips turning blue, difficult to rouse (awaken), non-responsive
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately
  • Give naloxone (Narcan) if you have it
  • Open airway and give rescue breaths

In Penticton, drug checking is available at SOWINS Mobile, Pathways Addictions Resource Society, and for residents only at Burdock House and Compass House.

Naloxone kits and training are available at SOWINS Mobile, One Sky Community Resources, Martin Street Outreach Primary Care Clinic, Pathways Addictions Resource Society, as well as several pharmacies.

READ MORE: Overdose prevention site selected for Okanagan city

@PentictonNews
editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

B.C. overdosesopioid crisisopioid deaths

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

Just Posted

Eco-friendly bus service seeks to add Kelowna to Osoyoos route

Bus would stop in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Kaledan, Oliver, Osoyoos

Kelowna trial date set for Penticton quadruple-homicide

John Brittain’s jury trial will commence on Oct 5, 2020 in Kelowna

Small business owner makes big donation to Penticton Food Bank

Across the country, more people are becoming reliant on food bank’s amid COVID-19

COLUMN: The gentle art of the disagreement

Differing opinions can work as a strength

Be mindful of COVID-19 safety measures, says City of Penticton

“The threat of COVID-19 is not over,” says mayor John Vassilaki

Video: Okanagan mayors encourage water conservation this summer

Water conservation this summer could be more important than ever, experts say

Vernon gym knocked out by COVID-19

9Round Fitness in Vernon Square Mall owners announce permanent closure of facility

Snapshot: Distanced dancing in Salmon Arm

Friends use picnic shelter at Blackburn Park for safe practice

Kelowna’s Homebase Baseball Tournament cancelled

A live auction will still take place to raise funds for Joeanna’s House

Kelowna General Hospital Foundation launches fundraising initiative to support local health care

The initiative also highlights workers at Kelowna General Hospital

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

Most Read