The number of overdose calls in Vancouver last week was the highest in the city so far this year.
Between February 26 and March 5, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services responded to 174 overdose calls and reported 14 suspected overdose deaths across the city.
The City of Vancouver called the number “extremely high compared to historical data” and noted that while the majority of calls were in the Downtown Eastside, the number of calls from other neighbourhoods in the city also went up.
Drug overdose deaths “continue to have a devastating impact throughout Vancouver,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The City shoulders a huge burden of the drug overdose response, and our first responders and front-line community workers are at a breaking point.”
Robertson noted that the federal government recently gave $10 million to the BC government to fight the overdose crisis.
These funds are “desperately needed to save lives by broadening access to clean prescription drugs and substitution therapy, and expanding treatment-on-demand services to help solve this public health emergency,” he said.
Drug overdoses are now among the top 10 causes of death in BC, according to data from the Vital Statistics Agency.
In comparison, the number of deaths due to motor vehicle accidents in 2015 – which totalled 300 – was one-third the number of overdose deaths in 2016.
Meanwhile, in the Fraser Valley city of Abbotsford, a drug that’s been called 100 times more potent than fentanyl has been detected for the first time.
After a drug seizure last month, the Gangs and Drugs Unit of the Abbotsford Police Department seized drugs suspected to contain Fentanyl and sent them for analysis.
The results found that not only was Fentanyl present, but Carfentanil was present as well.
“Both of these substances are extremely toxic, synthetic-opiate narcotics and have contributed to the record numbers of fatal overdoses that have been seen in the province and in our city,” Abbotsford Police said in a release.
“Carfentanil is used as an elephant tranquilizer. These drugs have killed and will continue to kill people from novice to experienced drug users.”
Carfentail was first detected in Vancouver late last year.