Photo Credit: NorthIsle.News staff

How Come Our Governments Aren’t Treating Opioid Deaths as a Major Crisis?

Street drugs continue to take a toll on VanIsle communities

Island Health warns Comox Valley and Campbell River residents about a recent spike in drug overdose

The overdose crisis continues to be one of BC’s most critical public health issues. It’s one of the top 10 causes of death in the province.

And it seems to be getting worse. Between January and May of this year, 851 people died of illicit drug overdoses. That’s more than half the deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic was declared.  

VanIsle is a hotspot. One in six fatal overdoses since January happened right here on Vancouver Island.

Yet the BC and federal governments aren’t ramping up efforts to slow down the deaths.

That doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

Last week, following a sudden increase in drug overdose, Island Health issued overdose advisories to Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

Medical Health Officer Charmaine Enns says Island Health watches for spikes in overdoses and reports of toxic drugs. They monitor reports from Overdose Prevention Sites, the RCMP, and the community, BC Ambulance Service callouts and tips from the coroner.

According to Enns, locals in those communities using opioids and stimulants in the two communities face increased risk from both injection and inhalation.

When we see overdoses spike above “what we have seen historically, then we like to issue an alert through our community partners,” she told My Comox Valley Now.

Island Health is urging drug users never to inject alone or mix alcohol and prescription drugs with opioids. The health authority also advises users always to carry naloxone and provide it to anyone experiencing an overdose and immediately call 9-1-1.

Island Health says drug users should carry naloxone and stagger use with a friend, so someone can respond if needed. They should also start low and go slow, taking a small amount at first, waiting to see how it feels.

If using alone, users should ask someone to check up on them, download the Lifeguard App, and have the National OD Response Service (1-888-688-6677) as a saved contact in their phone.

In Campbell River, those who use drugs are urged to do so at the local Overdose Prevention Service site at 1330 Dogwood Street, Unit #5. It’s open daily from 9:00 am until 7:00 pm.

In the valley, the Overdose Prevention Service is at 941C England Avenue in Courtenay. On weekdays, it’s open from 9:30 am until 3:30 pm. On weekends, it’s open from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm.