Thursday April 21, 2016

B.C. declares public health emergency after 200 overdose deaths in 2016

Police say as many as 100,000 tablets of fentanyl may have been shipped to Calgary each month from Kelowna.

Police say as many as 100,000 tablets of fentanyl may have been shipped to Calgary each month from Kelowna. (Calgary Police Service)

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This year so far, there have been more than 200 overdose deaths in British Columbia related to the synthetic opioid, fentanyl. The province has declared a public health emergency. 

If the rate of overdose deaths continues in B.C., as many as 800 people could die this year. 

Drug overdose deaths

Drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl in B.C., from 2012 to 2015. (CBC)

Opioid abuse is so severe in Canada that more people die of opioid overdoses than in car crashes. And many of those addictions start not with an illicit street purchase but with a prescription. 

As public health agencies and police now work to contain Canada's opioid crisis, critics say the situation we're in could have been predicted, and that actions should have been taken much sooner.     

Fentanyl quoteboard 1

Guests in this segment:

We did contact the office of federal health minister, Jane Philpott, but she was not available. The Canadian Medical Association did not respond to our request for an interview.     

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada sent a statement which reads, in part: 

'The Royal College is working with its partners on creating a series of educational resources and processes based on the most up to date...science...to reduce the rates of prescriptions and help (addicted) patients get off opioids and on to more appropriate therapies.'

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.