Ambulance crews scramble to cover spike in overdose calls in British Columbia’s interior – Okanagan

It was a restless Wednesday for ambulance crews in the southern interior of British Columbia, with 37 overdose calls in the interior health region.

That accounted for 23 overdose calls on Tuesday, 12 on Monday and 11 on Sunday.

Interior Health issued an urgent drug alert on Wednesday, saying tests found high levels of fentanyl and benzodiazepines in drug samples across the region.

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Interior Health issues urgent drug alert, high levels of fentanyl found in sampling

Global News has contacted Interior Health about Wednesday’s drug alert and spike in overdose calls.

In its alert, Interior Health said several samples contained up to 55% fentanyl, compared to an average of 10%.

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The alert says further testing has revealed that some drug samples contain up to 25% etizolam, with the normal average being 1-2%.

The medication alert is in effect until February 26.


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According to BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), here are the number of overdose calls from the past week that teams responded to in the Interior Health Authority region:

  • February 16: 37
  • February 15: 23
  • February 14: 12
  • February 13: 11
  • February 12: 14
  • February 11: 22
  • February 10: 12

The BCEHS says its paramedics and medical emergency call takers have saved the lives of many overdose patients. He notes that when paramedics respond to a potential overdose patient, the patient has a 95% chance of survival.

“We are very proud of the professionalism and dedication to patient care our frontline staff have shown throughout this crisis,” BCEHS told Global News on Thursday.

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“Paramedics will tell you that there is no typical overdose patient. This crisis is affecting people from all walks of life, all across the province.”


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The BCEHS says overdose calls are becoming more complex and paramedics are administering more naloxone than ever before.

Additionally, BCEHS says paramedics are responding to overdose patients in cardiac arrest.

“This means it takes longer to stabilize a patient at the scene before transporting them to hospital,” the BCEHS said, adding that paramedics can also end up with complications from an overdose, including symptoms of aspiration, trauma, frostbite and withdrawal.

BCEHS says it’s important people don’t use drugs alone and call 911 if you see someone who might be overdosing.

“The BC Coroner’s Office reports that the vast majority of overdose deaths occur when people are drinking alone because there is no one to call 911,” the BCEHS said.

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Betty K. Park