Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jun 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Sarah Petrescu
Page: A6


Health Canada issued a warning Thursday about drug use during the
summer festival season amid the worsening overdose crisis.

"While music festivals and other summer parties are a great way to
celebrate the season, it is important to consider safety, especially
when it comes to drugs and alcohol," said the health agency in a
statement. It included tips on safe drug use, how to spot and respond
an overdose, and a reminder of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act,
which provides legal protections for those in possession of drugs when
they seek help.

Health Canada said the number of overdose deaths is expected to climb
in 2017. In the first four months of the year, 488 British Columbians
died, including 84 from Vancouver Island.

People continue to die despite community and government efforts to
curb opioid deaths by distributing the overdose antidote naloxone,
opening overdose-prevention sites and increasing public awareness.

Fentanyl, a powerful opioid, is in most street heroin and is
increasingly present in other drugs, according to officials.

According to LifeLabs, the largest drug-testing company in the
province, fentanyl and drugs similar to it are increasingly present in
urine samples across B.C.

The company tests about 10,000 urine samples for drugs a month -
mainly for doctors with patients pursuing treatment such as a
methadone program. About two-thirds of these include requests for
fentanyl tests. The company said 30 per cent of the tests are positive
for fentanyl.

When LifeLabs started testing for carfentanil, which is even stronger
than fentanyl, in January, about two to three per cent of tests were
positive. This climbed to 21 per cent by June.

"We looked for a way we could make a valuable contribution to this
evolving public health crisis," said Sue Paish, LifeLabs president and
chief executive. "This test allows us to confirm where carfentanil is
in our communities for law enforcement, health officials and

In May, the company found carfentanil for the first time Victoria
samples - six positive tests in one month. It has also been detected
in Duncan and Nanaimo.

Alain Vincent operates STS Pain Pharmacy on Cormorant Street, which
specializes in substance-use support. The pharmacy offers free testing
of any drugs for fentanyl. Vincent posts the positive results on
social media to raise awareness.

"It's mostly concertgoers and people going to festivals with [the
drugs] MDMA or MDA and other things," said Vincent, noting that heroin
users often expect or even seek out fentanyl in drugs.

In the past three months, he's found fentanyl in heroin, ecstasy,
cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy, LSD and ketamine, along with illicit versions
of Ritalin and Xanax that were bought online.

He said that when most people find out their drugs contain fentanyl,
they want to get rid of them. "They don't want anything to do with
it," Vincent said. "I'm always amazed why an educated person would buy
drugs over the Internet, then be shocked by this."

Vincent said he cannot currently test for carfentanil, and that
knowing what's in drugs should not give a false sense of security to
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