Overdose deaths up 50 per cent in Okanagan this year - InfoNews

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Overdose deaths up 50 per cent in Okanagan this year

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June 27, 2017 - 10:58 AM

OKANAGAN - Interior Health is warning Okanagan drug users about the lethal effects of their habit after overdose deaths in the region spiked this year.

There were50 overdose deaths in the Okanagan in the first four months of 2017, compared to 76 in all of 2016, according to an Interior Health Authority media release.

Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema says the Okanagan is experiencing a large impact from the overdose crisis across the province.

"The number of deaths from drug overdoses continues to increase locally and across the province," Mema says. "The Okanagan is one of the areas experiencing the largest impact with a greater than 50 per cent increase in illicit drug overdose death rates compared to 2016."

Interior Health says overdoses are happening to street people along with people using in private residences. Heroin is still the drug most often associated with overdoses, but people who are overdosing are reporting use of other drugs including cocaine and methamphetamine.

"The biggest challenges we are facing in our overdose response right now are stigma and reaching the people who use drugs who are not street-involved," Mema says. "There is a big misperception out there that this overdose crisis is only affecting people who use heroin and are street-involved, and that is simply not the case. Overdoses are happening on the street, in private homes and among all socio-economic groups."

"We are urging everyone who uses illegal drugs to avoid using, if at all possible, or to take precautions to prevent overdose."

Interior Health says not using drugs at all is the best way to avoid overdosing, but knowing that some people will continue to use drugs, the health authority recommends users to not take drugs alone, keep an eye out for your friends, carry a Naloxone kit, don't mix different drugs, use less and pace yourself, recognize the signs of an overdose, and use the services available at overdose prevention sites.

For the latest on drug overdoses across the Southern Interior go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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