‘It’s a really diverse population that’s being affected’: B.C. overdoses killing non-addicts, partiers

published on April 24, 2017 by Randy Shore in Vancouver Sun

The pattern of overdoses in B.C. is reframing the fentanyl crisis: It’s not just about addicts any more, according to the director of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.

A growing number of casual drug users and weekend partiers are overdosing on recreational drugs, such as cocaine, that has been contaminated with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

“That changes the whole conversation from heroin and who we think these victims are to one of the contamination of the entire drug supply,” said Dr. Evan Wood. “We need some out-of-the box thinking on this. Addiction treatment is not relevant to people who are experimenting with drugs.”

Wood called for a massive expansion of drug-testing facilities as a way to “dramatically improve public safety.”

Seventeen-year-old Esquimalt high school student Heather McLean died of a suspected overdose on Easter Sunday. McLean was known to use drugs and alcohol with her friends, according to her stepmother Tamsin Stratford.

Heather told Stratford: “Don’t worry. I know who I’m getting my drugs from. I pay $20 extra to make sure there’s no fentanyl.”

Late last year in Delta, a group of nine people in their 20s bought what they thought was cocaine, split the drugs and headed their separate ways. Not long after came a spate of 911 calls and eight of them ended up in the emergency room with respiratory distress.

Delta Police said the reason the group was hit so hard is they were not used to taking such powerful drugs.

“With these drugs now, you might as well pick up a loaded handgun and play Russian roulette,” said Acting Sgt. Sarah Swallow.

Wood recalled the story of a young man pulled over on his way to his girlfriend’s house and snorted what he thought was a line of cocaine.

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