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Interior Health issues drug warnings in Penticton, Vernon due to toxic supply

Methamphetamine being circulated in Penticton can contain fentanyl, Interior Health says, increasing the risk of an overdose. Interior Health

The Interior Health Authority (IHA) is warning people who use drugs in Penticton, B.C., and Vernon B.C., to be aware of a particularly toxic supply circulating through the Okanagan cities.

In Penticton, test results show drugs marketed as methamphetamine contain fentanyl, increasing the risk of an overdose, IHA says.

The substances are cloudy white in colour and look “wet,” or contain red flakes.

Read more: B.C. overdose deaths hit record high for second consecutive month

In Vernon, what is being sold as fentanyl contains methamphetamine and benzodiazepines, which is a substance that slows brain activity and is used as a sedative and tranquillizer.

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Interior Health warns those who overdose on benzos may not react to naloxone, the medication used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose.

The drug warnings come as the BC Coroners Service reports another record-high monthly total for illicit drug deaths in June.

Last month there were 175 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, representing a 130 per cent increase over the number of deaths in June 2019 (76).

Click to play video: 'Interior Health issues overdose, fentanyl alert for Penticton' Interior Health issues overdose, fentanyl alert for Penticton
Interior Health issues overdose, fentanyl alert for Penticton – Feb 6, 2020

Twenty-six people have died of suspected drug overdoses from January to June 2020 in Kelowna, compared to 33 people in all of 2019.

Across the Interior Health region, 115 people died of drug overdoses so far this year, compared to 139 in all of 2019.

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Read more: Amid record overdose deaths, B.C.’s top doctor calls for decriminalization

In the first six months of the year 2020, 70 per cent of those deaths were people aged 19 to 49; males accounted for 80 per cent of deaths, and 85 per cent of drug overdoses occurred indoors.

Health officials say the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a barrier to harm reduction services and border closures are resulting in an increasingly toxic local drug supply.

Click to play video: 'Penticton averaging a drug overdose per day, prompting renewed calls for overdose prevention site' Penticton averaging a drug overdose per day, prompting renewed calls for overdose prevention site
Penticton averaging a drug overdose per day, prompting renewed calls for overdose prevention site – Nov 18, 2019
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The emergency financial aid was designed for people out of work due to the pandemic, not those already on income assistance.

There are mounting calls to expand B.C.’s safe supply program and decriminalize the possession of drugs to save lives.

To learn more about how to mitigate the risk of an overdose amid COVID-19, click here. 

To find a drug checking location near you, click here.

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