RCMP: “Only a matter of time before fentanyl is on Gabriola”

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, September 27 2016

According to the Gabriola RCMP, their members have not been called out to any reports of drug overdoses in the past few weeks.

That isn’t to say there haven’t been overdoses on Gabriola - just that the Gabriola RCMP were not among the emergency members called to respond to them.

Neither Island Health or BC Emergency Health Services (the ministry responsible for BC Ambulance Service), were able to provide data specific to Gabriola Island. Gabriola statistics are included in the same mid-Vancouver Island data as the City of Nanaimo and surrounding communities.

With the current media scrutiny on overdoses in BC, especially ones involving the opiod fentanyl, Gabriola RCMP Constable Jan Hendriks spoke to the potential fentanyl situation on Gabriola.

Hendriks said the Gabriola RCMP is aware that drugs such as marihuana, cocaine and meth are being used on the Island.

“It will be only a matter of time before we are seeing fentanyl being used on Gabriola Island, if it is not already here.”

Nanaimo and the Lower Mainland have seen a significant increase in the use of fentanyl in the past two to three years.

 According to the latest provincial numbers, released this past Wednesday by the Ministry of Health, Vancouver Island Health Authority had the highest rate of illicit drug overdose deaths (18.1 deaths per 100,000 individuals) in Jan – Aug 2016 among all health authorities and saw the largest increase in rate from 2015 (135% increase).

Overall, the rate of illicit drug overdose deaths in BC increased 43.5% in Jan – Aug 2016 compared with 2015.

The surge in overdoses, particularly deaths due to overdose, is coming with the arrival of fentanyl. 

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid drug which is approximately 50–100 times more powerful than morphine. 

It is commonly used as an anaesthetic in civilian hospitals, or in patch form for long term pain management. It is also used in veterinary applications for sedation and general anaesthesia. 

In the past year, an even stronger synthetic opioid - W18 - has started to appear in Alberta and BC. It is 100 times stronger than fentanyl.

Fentanyl has become very popular as an illicit street drug, either as a cutting agent or direct substitution for heroin, or in the manufacturing of counterfeit oxycodone pills. 

Illicit fentanyl is produced in both domestic and international clandestine laboratories. When produced in these illegal labs the amount of fentanyl will vary. 

One pill may have little to none and the next pill may consist of 75% fentanyl - which is what is causing the large number of recent drug overdoses in Canada. 

Fentanyl, like LSD, is a drug which is skin permeable (it can be absorbed through a person’s skin), allowing the drug to enter a person’s body more insidiously than usual forms of ingestion such as smoking, injection or inhalation.

Because of this, the Gabriola Island RCMP suggest not to touch and anything suspected to be a drug and to contact the Gabriola Detachment. The non-emergency line is 250-247-8333.

If members of the public do not protect themselves against possible exposure to the drug, especially in pure powder form, they put themselves at considerable risk which may lead to death. 

Fentanyl can be safely reversed by the administration of Narcan/Naloxone if medical attention is sought immediately. 

Paramedics with the Gabriola Island station, as well as a number of the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department members, are able to administer Naloxone.

The provincial government continues to make Naloxone kits available to members of the public, and the RCMP. as a government agency is moving to have its members also trained in administering Naloxone.

For further information on fentanyl, visit the RCMP website for a recent news article and recently created video on the Dangers of Fentanyl.

Those members of the public wishing to equip themselves with a Naloxone kit, the information is available on the BC Ministry of Health web site - or call Healthlink BC at 811 and ask about BC’s Take Home Naloxone program.