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Overdoses in Kelowna mirror B.C.’s ‘unprecedented’ numbers, authorities say

Overdoses in Kelowna reach new records due to ‘toxic supply’

It was a busy day for paramedics and first responders in Kelowna on Wednesday, as 12 overdose calls came in.

That’s four times the daily average for Kelowna, according to B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS).

“We are seeing an unprecedented number of overdoses,” said Dr. Silvina Mema, an Interior Health medical officer.

Read more: B.C. premier formally asks federal government to decriminalize illegal drugs

This month has been particularly high in volume for overdose calls — as of July 31st, Kelowna has had 138 calls for potential overdoses.

That’s an approximate 84-per cent increase from the average of 75 overdose emergency calls a month.

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As to why the overdoses calls are increasing, “The main reason is the tainted supply, it’s toxic,” Dr. Mema told Global News on Friday.

B.C. health officials have been warning of more toxic street drugs since the beginning of the pandemic.

An overdose alert was issued on July 17th by the BC Centre for Disease Control for ‘increased drug toxicity’.

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

Kelowna’s high numbers mirror the rest of the province, which has recorded a new record number of overdose calls in a month at nearly 2,700, shattering the record of 2,400 calls in November 2016.

“The last several months have been devastating for overdoses in BC particularly in the Kelowna area,” said Joe Acker, BCEHS’s director of clinical and professional practice. 

“June and July have seen the highest amount of deaths ever [in B.C.].”
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According to the BCCDC, B.C. had a record number of fatal overdoses in June at 171 deaths.

“We’re seeing sedatives in the drug supply and that’s impacting patients in the number of overdoses and deaths,” said Acker.

Read more: B.C. premier says he regrets calling illicit drug use a ‘choice’

Interior Health wants to urge the public that if they are going to use to do so safely.

Four possible safety measures drug users can take are:

  1. Never use alone — paramedics say a patient has a 95 per cent survival rate if someone overdoses but is using with another person.
  2. Get your drugs checked at an overdose prevention site.
  3. Carry a naloxone kit and learn how to use it.
  4. Contact a doctor about possible prescription alternatives.
    Highest monthly number of overdose deaths recorded in B.C.
    Highest monthly number of overdose deaths recorded in B.C.