For months there has been a fear that drug overdoses, particularly fentanyl related incidents, have been on the rise. But now that the provincial numbers are in, that fear is being called an epidemic.
In the first half of 2016, there have been 371 fatalities in B.C. due to illicit overdoses. That represents a 74 per cent increase from the same period last year.
“Golden is no different, it’s definitely on the rise here,” said Justin Telfer, Youth Substance Use Counsellor with the East Kootenay Addiction Services Society here in Golden. “It really is an epidemic, and they’re not predicting it to slow down any time soon.”
The B.C. Coroners Services says that past fentanyl-linked deaths were mainly concentrated in the Lower Mainland, are now regularly occurring throughout the province.
With drug use becoming increasingly dangerous, Telfer says it’s more important than ever that people in Golden know what kind of services are available here in town.
“Right now we’re working on getting the message out that ‘any door is the right door.’ And what that means is that whether you go to your doctor, the hospital, a counsellor, a school administrator, or whoever, they will be able to give you the right information, or send you in the right direction,” he said.
Drug users often feel hesitant to seek out help, even when they’re in medical distress, because of the fear that they will be turned over to police, but Telfer says that is not the case.
“Everything is confidential, you will not be reported,” he said, adding that drug addiction counsellors likely won’t even try to convince users to stop.
“The first priority is safety. We want everyone to feel safe to come in for help without any pressure. We try to meet people where they are in their addiction, so if someone comes in with no intention of quitting, only seeking out information about using safely, then that’s what we’ll talk about.”
Ideally users seeking out help will eventually take steps to stop using, but Telfer says step one is always harm reduction. The best way to reduce harm is to be knowledgable about what drugs you’re using, given that opiate users are often taking fentanyl (a dangerously potent drug with often fatal results) without even realizing it.
“Both users and their family and friends should know what the signs of an overdose are, that’s really important,” said Telfer.
“It’s also a good idea to have naloxone on hand, and to know how to use it.”
Naloxone, available in a take-home kit, can save the life of someone who is overdosing. Between January and July of 2016, 12 naloxone kits were distributed in Golden, half of which have been reported as used. Kits can be obtained at the Public Health office at the Golden Hospital.
Prevention is also a high priority, and through collaborative school programs like Rock Solid, they are trying to reach youth before drugs become a problem.
But for those who are concerned about their drug use, or that of someone they care about, remember any door is the right door.
“It takes a tremendous amount of courage to make contact, but it is so important,” said Telfer. “When you’re in the middle of it, it feels like you’ve got nobody, and we’re trying to change that perception. You’re not alone.”