Stay Safer as Overdose Deaths Increase
June 19, 2020. Article by: Government of B.C.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a staggering increase in overdose deaths. The illegal drug supply in B.C. is more toxic than ever and unpredictable. Every region of the province is being impacted.
For the first time since 2018, the BC Coroners Service reported over 100 overdose deaths in back-to-back months – 112 in March and 117 in April and 170 in May. In May, overdoses deaths were the highest ever recorded for one month in B.C.
These numbers are devastating. People are losing their loved ones – family, friends, neighbours, co-workers.
These losses and suffering can be prevented. Now more than ever, as B.C. faces two public health emergencies, it is time to come together and talk about ways to stay safer.
6 ways to stop overdose
Common opioids include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, codeine, morphine, methadone and hydromorphone. Opioids are a type of depressant that can slow the body down and make people sleepy. They may be prescribed or used illegally to reduce pain, manage opioid dependence or produce a state of euphoria or relaxation.
1. Know the signs of an overdose and how to respond.
If someone is not moving or hard to wake up; breathing slowly or not at all; has blue lips and nails; is making choking, gurgling or snoring sounds; has cold or clammy skin and tiny pupils, they could be experiencing an overdose.
- Call 9-1-1 immediately if you think someone is experiencing an overdose.
- Learn the S.A.V.E M.E. steps.
2. Get a naloxone kit.
Anyone can learn to use naloxone to reverse an overdose. Pick up a free naloxone kit at any of the 1300 sites in BC. Find a site near you, and carry a kit with you at all times. Take free naloxone training online.
3. Go slow.
Don’t mix substances (this includes alcohol or prescription medication). Know your tolerance. Test a small amount of the substance first, then go slowly.
4. Never use alone.
Using drugs alone increases the risk of experiencing a fatal overdose.
- Buddy up so you’re not alone. Let a friend know if you’ll be using substances and look out for each other.
- Visit a supervised consumption and overdose prevention service in your area. These are free, safe and essential services. Many sites are now open throughout B.C., with COVID-19 protocols in place.
- Use the Lifeguard app which connects you to emergency responders automatically if you become unresponsive. Download for free through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
5. Get your drugs checked.
Drug checking provide life-saving information about the harmful and even deadly contaminants, such as fentanyl, that drugs may contain. Drug checking services are available at most supervised consumption and overdose prevention services across the province.
Get drug alerts or report substances in Vancouver Coastal Health through texting.
6. Consider prescription alternatives.
More people are using safer prescription alternatives to separate them from the toxic drug supply, prevent withdrawal and support physical distancing requirements during COVID-19. Connect to a health care provider or call 8-1-1 to get help finding a provider.
The last three months have been very difficult for everyone. Together we can help save lives – share these tips with your family and friends.
These actions could help save your life or the life of someone you care about.
- Find Opioid Agonist Treatment Clinics that are accepting new patients.
- If you are an Indigenous person, find treatment centres through the First Nations Health Authority, or make a virtual appointment with a doctor, through First Nations Virtual Doctor of the Day.
- Search for services in B.C. using the Mental Health and Substance Use Service Map.
- Call 8-1-1 for non-emergency health information.