Alison Nicol of Encompass Support Services demonstrated the use of a naloxone kit.

Newsmaker of the Year: Fentanyl savaged Langley

Drug overdoses and deaths were up sharply Langley in 2016.

Overdose deaths shot up dramatically in 2016, leaving local emergency responders, social workers, and families scrambling for ways to deal with the crisis.

Starting in mid to late 2015, drug dealers around the Lower Mainland and across B.C. began spiking heroin and cocaine with the powerful prescription drug fentanyl.

Fentanyl, many times more powerful than heroin, began killing many drug users who had no idea the potency of what they were injecting.

Non-fatal overdoses also shot up sharply.

In Langley City, in 2015, firefighters responded to 80 overdose calls, said fire chief Rory Thompson.

In 2016, as of mid-December, they had already attended 216.

Across Langley, B.C. Coroners’ Service statistics showed that 24 people had died of overdoses this year, compared to 10 each year for the past three. There had never been more than 10 overdose deaths in Langley before.

“It was like a tidal wave,” City firefighter Chris Miley remembered. They became almost daily quickly.

Miley remembered the first time he administered naloxone, a medication which counteracts opiods and can bring people back from an overdose.

They found the man on the street, under a soaking wet sheet, and had to give him two doses before he got up.

When the naloxone finally kicked in, the man “just sat right up,” said Miley.

Then it seemed like a big deal. “Now it’s just every day,” Miley said.

“Unfortunately, there are repeat customers,” said City fire captain Terry Alcombrack.

They have found themselves heading into homes, apartments, and everywhere else to give people a shot of naloxone.

“We’re in the back woods, we’re buried in the brush and brambles, or we’re on a sidewalk,” he said.

Not all addicts or drug users are homeless or found on the streets, however. Some are casual users with jobs and families.

In a North Langley church in mid-December, Alison Nicol of Encompass Support Services Society and Erin Barber of Stepping Stone were part of a group organized to teach naloxone use.

In response to the crisis, training in administering naloxone is being given to anyone who wants it. The naloxone kits are being given to addicts, social workers, RCMP officers, and firefighters.

“With an opiod overdose, your breathing stops,” Nicol said.

She goes through the list of symptoms of an overdose, including blue lips and nails, cold skin, and gurgling or choking sounds.

Then Nicol and Barber show how to use one of the yellow glass ampules of naloxone, snapping it open, drawing up the liquid into a disposable syringe, and then injecting it into a little simulated pad of flesh. If it was a real addict, the shot would go into a big muscle, and would take about 10 minutes to take effect.

Organized by Fraser Health workers, the sessions have been held around the community, in the hopes that someone will be close by to help an overdosing addict.

Addicts are being encouraged not to shoot up alone – so they can help a friend if one overdoses.

No one wants to see more deaths. Alcombrack knows that many firefighters grew up in Langley, and may know the person they are called to help, or know their families or friends.

“We don’t want to see them die,” he said.

As for what can help stop the series of overdoses, there are so far few answers.

“It’s happened so fast, that there hasn’t been a proper analysis by anybody as to what do we do,” said Power.

How do you stop importation of fentanyl, a drug so potent that small packages are simply mailed in to Canada?

Treatment and getting people off drugs would help, but isn’t a magic wand, Power noted, and takes time and money.

In the meantime, more people are being trained and more naloxone kits are going out to the public.

 

Just Posted

Two Langley affordable housing projects get provincial funding

First phase of $1.9 billion program to build residences for low and middle-income people

Court denies bid to overturn Langley City election

Serena Oh won’t be allowed to launch a legal action against the City.

LETTER: Canada should not be selling weapons abroad

A Langley man is critical of Canada for selling arms that are being used to kill civilians.

Langley author pens tribute to the men and women of Canada’s military for Remembrance Day

‘A soldier, a sailor and an airman … stood before the Pearly Gates’

LETTER: Langley candidate pleasantly surprised by campaign

A local woman who ran for municipal council is grateful for the experience.

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Kuhnhackl scores 2 odd goals as Isles dump Canucks 5-2

Vancouver drops second game in two nights

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Letters shed light on state of mind of B.C. mom accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey mother Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

Most Read