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Killer heroin doubles B.C. overdose fatalities

By Motorhead, May 6, 2011 | | |
  1. Motorhead
    A batch of killer heroin may have caused a spike in the number of overdose fatalities in B.C. in recent months, the province's coroners service is warning.

    In the first four months of the year, 20 fatal heroin overdoses have been reported, more than double the normal number for the same time period, according to a statement released by the coroner on Thursday.

    Earlier this week the RCMP in Kelowna issued a warning about potent heroin in that city after two young men died from overdoses.

    The Coroners Service believes the heroin, which is twice as strong as normal doses, has also been responsible for several deaths in the Lower Mainland.

    Officials warn drug users not to be alone when ingesting drugs, and to use supervised injection facilities if possible.

    CBC News
    May 05, 2011


  1. Motorhead
    Extra-strength heroin claims 20 lives in Lower Mainland: coroner

    VANCOUVER — A batch of extra-strength heroin is on a deadly rampage in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, the B.C. Coroners Service warned Thursday.

    "Heroin being dealt to users in some areas is at least twice as potent as usual," the coroners service advised, citing 20 heroin overdose deaths so far in 2011, double the number of deaths last year.

    Drug users should "never be alone when ingesting drugs, and where possible (should) use available community services such as INSITE or needle exchanges," the coroners service warned.

    At Insite, B.C.'s only supervised-injection site, the waiting room was full Thursday of anxious drug-users waiting for a cubicle to safely inject drugs.

    Insite registered nurse Tim Gauthier, one of two on-duty nurses who save on average the lives of 18 to 23 overdosing users a month, confirms "we have had 36 overdoses just from April 5 to May 5 this year."

    None of the 3,000-plus people who have overdosed at Insite has ever died.

    Victor, 41, an intravenous-drug user since 1997, said he's "heard people say there's strong heroin being sold that just makes people drop.

    "That's why I would never, ever shoot up alone — you shoot up in an alley or in your room and by the time you can say 'Uh-oh' it's too late.

    "Here if you OD, and I've done it twice, they're going to bring you back."

    Mark Townsend of the Portland Hotel Society, which runs Insite, said "the Vancouver police haven't warned us about especially potent heroin and they're usually pretty good about that.

    "Medicine and science statistics prove Insite saves lives and the B.C. government is onside but we still have to argue that in court next week."

    Townsend, and Gauthier for the B.C. Nurses' Union as interveners, go to Ottawa next Wednesday to hear the federal government's appeal of two B.C. Court rulings that have allowed Insite to stay open.

    Insite backers have won two B.C. court rulings based on Charter rights and provincial jurisdiction over the safe-injection site which opened in 2003 but the feds appear determined to close Insite, despite backing by police and coroners.

    Vancouver Police Const. Lindsey Houghton said "we don't attend all ODs unless they are deemed suspicious," and added he had "no information available. We don't test the heroin ourselves."

    After two recent OD deaths, Kelowna RCMP and the Coroners Service have done tests confirming the presence of super-potent heroin but don't yet know its source.

    The deaths have occurred throughout the Lower Mainland, including Burnaby, Surrey, Abbotsford and Chilliwack, said regional coroner Vince Stancato.

    The Vancouver Sun
    May 05, 2011
  2. jon-q
    Vancouver Island heroin users warned as deaths increase

    VICTORIA — A spike in drug overdose deaths on Vancouver Island has prompted the B.C. Coroners Service to remind the public about risks associated with extra-strength heroin on the streets.

    Regional coroner Matt Brown said there were eight confirmed heroin-related fatalities from January to July with another four suspected cases awaiting toxicology test results.

    That compares with six over the same period in 2010.

    "There’s a definite spike there," he said.

    Brown said the majority of the overdoses occurred in January, but cases continue to surface.

    "What we want to do is make sure that the general public is aware that there is a higher potency of heroin out there," he said.

    "The message really needs to be careful and clear that there is a risk out there and that if you’re using, utilize the street nurses and those on the front lines that can provide you with some information on how to do it in a safe way."

    Brown said anyone who has a negative reaction to heroin, or notices someone who is having problems after injecting the drug, should seek immediate medical help.

    It’s the second time in three months that the coroners service has expressed concern about a rise in heroin overdose deaths.

    The service first issued a public safety warning in May following an increase in heroin-related fatalities on the Lower Mainland.

    At the time, there had been 20 heroin-related overdoses in the first four months of the year, double the number over the same period in 2010.

    But Brown said coroners on Vancouver Island became concerned recently that people were still not getting the message.

    Katrina Jensen, executive director of AIDS Vancouver Island, said the situation highlights once again the need for a supervised injection site in Victoria, as well as a fixed-site needle exchange.

    "It’s challenging to both connect with people and get the word out about these issues when we’re only operating from a mobile service," she said.

    "But we do whatever we can to get the word out and we’ve known about this extra-strength heroin for a while and we’ve definitely been asking people to take care, and to do testers on their doses, or split their doses in half."

    The coroners service says the double-strength heroin being dealt in some areas places users "at an increased risk of respiratory depression, health complications, overdose and death when they are unaware of this higher potency and ingest their usual amount."

    The coroners service advises that drug users should never be alone when ingesting drugs and, where possible, make use of community services such as needle exchanges and the Insite supervised-injection site in Vancouver.

    Jensen noted that there have been hundreds of overdoses at Insite, but none have resulted in death because staff have intervened immediately and saved lives.

    The coroners service investigates all unnatural, sudden and unexpected or unexplained deaths in the province. The service makes recommendations to improve public safety and prevent future deaths.

    Lindsay Kines
    The Vancouver Sun 6th Aug 2011
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