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

54-40 thrills Aldergrove Fair crowd: VIDEO

54-40 were joined on stage by the band members’ dancing children, the “Aldergrove Rockettes”

ZONE 3: Luck played no part in getting Riley Ward to the BC Games

Langley baller flouts misfortune on the floor; he’d rather get by on hard work

Third straight loss ends Langley’s Junior B Thunder season

The local squad could not snare a win against the Port Coquitlam Saints.

Giants bringing Point Roberts talent to Langley

The Vancouver Giants have announced a new signing.

VIDEO: New doctors, but fewer spaces for patients in Langley

Retirements have left some Langley residents without a family physician.

Here’s what you need to know about Day 2 at the BC Games

From equestrian to volleyball to swimming, all 18 events in full swing here in the Cowichan Valley

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Two significant wildfires burning in southeastern B.C.

More than 20 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Saturday afternoon

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

Fraser Surrey Docks mechanic dies on the job

‘This is a very sad day - a worker went to his job this morning and didn’t go home’

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan


A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

Most Read