Pubdate: Thu, 18 Jul 2013
Source: Abbotsford Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 The Abbotsford Times
Author: Rochelle Baker


Deadly form of heroin leads to spike in drug ODs

Abbotsford Police are warning that a potentially lethal form of heroin
may be causing a dramatic spike in overdoses just days after it was
revealed that TV's Glee star Cory Monteith died from a toxic mix of
the street drug and alcohol in Vancouver.

The APD has recorded at least a 39 per cent jump in the number of
overdoses in the community since mid- May, said Const. Ian Mac-Donald.

There have been a total of seven overdoses, one of them fatal, and
police suspect the

incidents may be linked to the presence of fentanyl in the street
drug, he said.

Another man nearly lost his life after a drug overdose took place
early Wednesday morning, according to the Abbotsford's Warm Zone.

Michele Giordano, coordinator at the drop-in centre that serves
Abbotsford's street entrenched women, said a woman came running up the
stairs from the alley, shouting for someone to call 911.

"The guy had dropped and was convulsing and foaming from the mouth,"
said Giordano.

His friends and Warm Zone employees stayed by his side as he dropped
in and out of consciousness until the ambulance came, she said.

The incident highlights warnings the Warm Zone has also been making to
its clients about risky heroin since June. At the end of May, the
Provincial Health Officer issued a warning about a rash of overdoses
associated heroin with fentanyl.

The B.C. Coroners Service found there have been 23 deaths related to
fentanyl in the first four months of 2013, up from 20 deaths related
to the drug in all of 2012.

The drug is dangerous, as it presents a much higher risk of overdose,
but people buying it on the street might think they are taking heroin
or oxycodone, as it may come in similar packaging, warned the health

Although toxicology results are still outstanding, the APD suspects
the rise in overdoses they've noted are linked to fentanyl.

The Warm Zone has also noted a rise in overdoses, even among long-time
drug users, said Giordano.

"We're warning people using heroin to use a little at a time, less
than a normal dose, and never alone," she said.

"Fentanyl is (more than) potent. It's lethal, it's

Although the APD hasn't gotten conclusive test results back, the
potential health risks are serious enough that police couldn't wait
before issuing the warning, said MacDonald.

Giordano stressed that Wednesday's overdose illustrated the need for
harm reduction services in the community.

"If the Warm Zone wasn't here, his friends wouldn't have had anywhere
to get help," she said.

"He's addicted but he survived and now maybe in the future he can get

Barb McLintock, spokeswoman with the B.C. Coroners Service, said the
agency is aware of the dangers associated with fentanyl and looking
into what is behind the rise of overdoses in Abbotsford, and across
the Lower Mainland in general.

To date, the Coroners Service has now recorded 30 deaths related to
fentanyl, said McLintock.

However, she said Monteith's heroin overdose was not linked to the
presence of the drug in heroin.

Those handling illicit drugs should also use caution, as fentanyl can
be absorbed through mucous membranes and cause severe adverse
reactions and death, according to health officials.

The health officer also noted in its warning that during a 2006
fentanyl epidemic in Chicago, 342 died from the drug.

It was originally an opioid used to manage severe pain in cancer

Fentanyl has been seized in recent busts by the Vancouver and Kelowna
police departments.

Police in those communities also warned people street heroin might be
laced with the drug or being substituted with it.

The jump in overdoses in Abbotsford and Monteith's death underscores
the ever present dangers of using street drugs, said MacDonald.

"It's more pertinent than ever for all heroin or all street drug users
to take care," he said.

"There are lessons to be learned from every overdose. You don't ever
know what you are ingesting or consuming with street drugs."
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