Toxic Drug Supply: Staying Safe During the Overdose Crisis

Note: B.C. is facing two public health emergencies as of March 2020. This article provides information and support about the overdose emergency. Find up-to-date information about the COVID-19 health emergency through the BC Centre for Disease Control. Download the BC COVID-19 Support app for emerging information and a self-assessment tool.


Since January 2017, more than 3,700 British Columbians have lost their lives to overdose.

They were people from communities across the province: from the coast to the Kootenays; the Fraser Valley to the Peace Region; the island to the Okanagan.

And over 80% had fentanyl – a substance up to 100 times more toxic than morphine – in their systems when they died. 

Know the risks

Fentanyl has been found in heroine, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs. It is one of the reasons why today’s illegal drug supply is so unpredictable and highly toxic, and a major part of overdose crisis that takes four lives in B.C. every day.

As retired NHL goaltender Kirk McLean says, it’s important to be informed about what this means, and if you or someone you know uses drugs, to look out for yourself and those around you.

Overdoses are preventable, lives can be saved. And everyone is worth the effort.



Reduce the risks

If you witness an overdose, call 9-1-1 right away. Even if there are drugs around, the Good Samaritan Act is there to protect you.

There are supports, services and resources available to reduce the risks of an overdose.

Know how to identify and respond to an overdose. 

Take steps to use drugs more safely – such as trying not to use alone and starting with a small amount.

Use Supervised Consumption and Overdose Prevention Sites, which provide safe spaces to use drugs. Fentanyl detection strips can be used to check drugs for the presence of fentanyl and are available at all sites. Some supervised consumption sites and overdose prevention sites have machines that can check for a wider range of substances than just fentanyl – click here to see if this service is offered in your area.

Learn about the Take Home Naloxone program to get a naloxone kit that can reverse the effects of an overdose. Overdose recognition and response training is also available at BC Take Home Naloxone sites.