Drug overdose cases are projected to increase 500 per cent in Langley City.
City fire chief Rory Thompson told Monday night’s city council meeting the number of overdose calls handled by city firefighters rose from 80 overdoses in 2015 to 228 in 2016.
So far this year, there have been 178 cases, and the fire department expects the final tally will be about five times higher than it was in 2015.
“This continues to be significant,” Thompson told council.
“It continues to grow.”
Thompson noted that the Fraser Health Authority has found the majority of cases are not homeless, that 70 per cent of overdose patients treated at the ER “have a home.”
Thompson told The Times that all City firefighters, including paid on-call firefighters, have been trained in the administration of the anti-overdose naloxone drug (Langley RCMP have also been trained).
“There’s all sorts of different sorts of combinations of drugs that we’re seeing on the street, including the fentanyl (a synthetic drug that is extremely potent and considered the main cause of the spike in overdose cases) being mixed in with other products,” Thompson said.
“Sometimes we’re seeing heroin that’s mixed with PCP, heroin that’s mixed with fentanyl.”
“The quality and consistency of the product they’re buying is not there,” Thompson said.
“In some cases they (users) could take it and have a normal reaction to taking drugs and some cases (they are) turning into fatalities, unfortunately.”
Thompson was asked if the rising number of overdoses, some of them fatal, has meant increased stress for firefighters.
“It certainly does,” Thompson said.
“Our firefighters are typically a very caring lot and you know it certainly does take a bit of a toll when you constantly see people that are in medical distress. “
Thompson said the Langley City fire department is working with other agencies to combat overdoses.
“This really is a community problem and it is going to take the community working together to come up with solutions.”
At the same Monday council meeting, the officer in charge of the Langley RCMP detachment, Supt. Murray Power told council that Carfentinil, a synthetic large animal sedative that is far more powerful than fentanyl, has been identified in the Langleys by drug enforcement investigators who have seized it from local drug dealers.
“Carfentinil is here, unfortunately and that’s going to increase risk levels for users and front line officers alike,” Power said.
Deaths from drug overdoses have been averaging more than 100 a month in B.C. since 2016.
Figures from the BC Coroners Service show the proportion of illicit drug deaths where fentanyl was detected continues to climb. Last year, roughly 60 per cent of of these deaths included fentanyl, but that number has risen to 72 per cent through the first four months of 2017.
Carfentinil, which can be fatal in very small amounts when it is used as an additive to street drugs, is believed to have first arrived in Metro Vancouver in November of 2016.
In January, tests confirmed its presence in drug treatment centres in Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Maple Ridge and Richmond.