Overdose calls set single-day high, prompting warning from Island Health

Island Health issued a warning Thursday about increased overdoses related to a toxic drug supply, on the heels of paramedics reporting the worst single-day high for related calls.

In the previous 24-hour period, paramedics around the province responded to 138 potential overdoses. B.C. Emergency Health Services said it was the highest day on record for overdose calls since the opioid overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency five years ago, with 45 calls in Vancouver and 10 calls in Victoria.

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“Over the past few months, our numbers continue to worry us,” said Dr. Sandra Allison, Island Health medical health officer in the central region. “They are not improving.”

More than 7,000 British Columbians have died in the five years since the public health emergency was declared. There were 1,716 illicit drug deaths last year, and almost 70 per cent of those dying were aged 30 to 59. Males accounted for 81 per cent of deaths.

The health authority is urging drug users — especially in Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox Valley and Campbell River — to use strategies to stay safe when using and to reach out to others, especially men, who are dying in the highest numbers, to talk about safer drug use.

Strategies for safer use include having your drugs checked by an overdose-prevention services, carrying Naloxone and having an overdose-response plan, testing a little before doing a regular hit and not using alone, or using where you’re close to help.

If someone overdoses:

· Call 911 immediately

· Provide rescue breathing

· Give Naloxone

Resources are available at IslandHealth.ca/StopOverdose.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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