In 2018 a total of 20 people died due to drug overdoses in Vernon and a reported seven people have died in 2019 as of June 1. (AP File Photo/Mark Lennihan)

In 2018 a total of 20 people died due to drug overdoses in Vernon and a reported seven people have died in 2019 as of June 1. (AP File Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Overdoses overwhelming in B.C. Interior

Part two: Who’s affected by the current opioid crisis

It is no secret the B.C. Interior has experienced the effects caused by the national opioid overdose crisis.

Vernon medical health officer Dr. Karin Goodison notes that four specific municipalities across the Interior — Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton — have seen significant increases in the number of people dying due to opioid overdoses in recent years.

In 2018 a total of 20 people died due to drug overdoses in Vernon and a reported seven people have died in 2019 as of June 1.

“Almost all of this is due to fentanyl,” said Goodison. “It has become clear that we have poison in our illicit drug supply.”

If you took fentanyl-related deaths out of the equation, she explained, there would not be a significant increase in overdose deaths.

According to the B.C. Coroner’s report, illicit fentanyl-detected deaths appear to account for the increase in illicit drug overdose deaths since 2012. Overdose deaths without fentanyl-detected has remained relatively stable since 2011 with an average 285 deaths per year.

Part One: The opioid crisis and the B.C. Interior

Research also showed that men have been impacted more than women — 80 per cent of opioid-related deaths across B.C. were men.

“We’ve seen that that’s actually higher in Vernon with about 88 per cent of deaths in 2018 being men,” said Goodison.

She explained that this has actually changed the life expectancy in B.C. Data released by Statistics Canada found that life expectancy in Canada fell for the second year in a row between 2016 and 2017, dropping by 0.3 years for men and 0.1 years for women.

The 2018 Coroners Death Review reviewed people who had died between January 2016 and mid-2017 and showed that almost 80 per cent of individuals who had died due to the crisis had contacted Health Services within the year preceding their death, 77 per cent were regular drug users.

Goodison notes that though the crisis seems to have originated in urban settings like Vancouver, it slowly crept into rural locations and began affecting these populations at more significant rates.

“We’re seeing it move to smaller settings like Vernon and Penticton,” she said. “It’s more challenging to combat because, based on per capital modeling, we have less resources in rural areas than we do in an urban areas.”

She explained that despite their efforts, many suffering from addiction often don’t seek out resources because there is often less confidentiality in smaller cities and towns. For example, the individual may be deterred from seeking help because they’re more likely to know the person offering the service.

The B.C. Coroner’s report also found that 44 per cent of individuals were employed at the time of their overdose. Goodison notes that this is likely due to the shame surrounding substance use as individuals may be more likely to use alone and are therefore less likely to be found and resuscitated. About 60 per cent of overdose deaths in Vernon occurred in private residences.

“We still have concerns about people who are using alone and are working to access the population in an effective way,” she said. “Fetanyl has been detected in 70-80 per cent of these deaths in Vernon.”

Vernon local James* is a good example. Though he overdosed multiple times, he admits he’s lucky to be alive.

“I always worked and I always had lots of money. I was never downtown using drugs; I was always using in my vehicle or in my home. I overdosed over 20 times in three years so I don’t know how (I’m alive) because I always used alone but somehow there was always someone who found me.”

Many are not so fortunate.

Editor’s Note: James’ name has been changed for anonymity and safety purposes. Part three of this series will address the addiction services available in Vernon.

Related: B.C.’s opioid crisis leads to first stall in Canadian life expectancy in 40 years: study

Related: Six-month implant newest option to treat addiction amid opioid crisis

To report a typo, email:
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com
.



Follow me on Twitter @BrieChar
Email me brieanna.charlebois@vernonmorningstar.com
Like us on Facebook.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo’s Mt. Benson with flares during icy rope rescue

Search and rescue team gets injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance

Sofia Low, left, Delilah Maisonneuve, Madi Hickey, Alayna Black, and Maya Wilch, Departure Bay Eco-School students, will turn down the temperature and wear sweaters on Feb. 4, National Sweater Day. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo students will don sweaters next week as part of energy-saving challenge

Departure Bay Eco-School’s green energy team challenges other classes on National Sweater Day

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo’s NRGH

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All seniors in long-term care on the Island will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
UPDATE: Snowfall warning issued for Nanaimo area, up to 5 cm forecast

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Sofia Low, left, Delilah Maisonneuve, Madi Hickey, Alayna Black, and Maya Wilch, Departure Bay Eco-School students, will turn down the temperature and wear sweaters on Feb. 4, National Sweater Day. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo students will don sweaters next week as part of energy-saving challenge

Departure Bay Eco-School’s green energy team challenges other classes on National Sweater Day

VIU’s health and science centre. (Vancouver Island University photo)
VIU to train 72 health-care assistants to work with seniors

B.C. Ministry of Health announces details of health career access program

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit, seeks to raise $8,000 for a play structure to help children remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization asking for help fundraising for play structure

Physical activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, says non-profit

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Actions of Vancouver Island RCMP emergency response team members prevented a potential head-on collision accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on Jan. 19, says Nanaimo RCMP. (News Bulletin file)
Eight cars evade vehicle driving on wrong side of highway, says Nanaimo RCMP

Incident occurred near Trans-Canada Highway-Morden Road intersection earlier this week

Most Read