January 10, 2014 - 4:35 PM
KAMLOOPS - A street worker says drug overdoses increased significantly in 2013, and he is concerned it could rise again this year.
Ken Salter, outreach worker for ASK Wellness says a batch of tainted heroin is taking its toll in Kamloops and says users need to know it before they use it.
“It’s the ongoing guessing game about what’s in the street drugs when you’re buying,” Salter said.
Benzodiazepine is responsible for giving a recent batch of heroin a red tinge. It has similar effects as the date rape drug.
“It’s robbing people of their memories,” Salter said. “We just started hearing about it about two weeks ago.”
Beyond memory loss, he’s unaware of any overdoses related to the concoction, unlike a rash of incidents in Kamloops last year when fentanyl—easily mistaken for heroin but much stronger—circulated in the city. It killed one Kamloops man and Salter said it contributed to the rise in overdoses last year in the Interior.
Last year 46 people died—12 more than all of 2012 and could be even higher since many overdoses go unreported.
“If somebody overdoses and survives, they don’t report it,” he said.
Kamloops RCMP reported an increase in crystal meth use in the city, prompting the start of a community task force in December. Not far from Kamloops, 'Bath salts' were reportedly on their way to Kelowna in the fall before intercepted by police. More recently, the John Howard Society in Vernon voiced concerns over 10 deaths among homeless people in 2013.
It's common for street drugs to be cut with other drugs, and Salter tries to keep ahead of it all by keeping a pulse of what's happening on the street.
"They use whatever they can get their hands on," he said. "You never know what they're cutting it with."
However, street drugs aren't Salter's only concern. He's trying to get the word out about changes to the B.C. Methadone Maintenance Program next month. Beginning Feb. 1, patients registered in the program will begin receiving methadose instead of methadone — a solution that is 10 times the concentration.
“My concern is not so much for the people who are prescribed,” Salter said. “It’s that there is a lot of methadone on the street for sale.”
Salter is concerned the prescription drug will hit the street and users won’t realize the stronger dose until it's too late.
“I just have a feeling we’re going to run into a bunch of methadone overdoses before (the information) gets out there,” he said.
He realizes “don’t use street drugs” might be a hopeless message. Instead he hopes a simple modification to "don't use alone" may save lives.
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