I spend my summers in Whitehorse, but during the year I live in Vancouver. On my daily commute to school the #3 bus takes me through the Downtown Eastside, an area infamous for its drug use among residents. Recently this corner of the city has been making headlines for the fentanyl epidemic it is suffering, and by the end of the year they’ve projected 400 deaths related to the drug.
So what is fentanyl? It’s a synthetic narcotic, 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine, used to treat cancer patients. The deaths have been caused by dealers cutting heroin, cocaine, oxycodone and other drugs with fentanyl. Users who have no tolerance to fentanyl are especially at risk. It has no taste or smell and can’t be seen, but tiny doses can be deadly.
Vancouver may be the focus of fentanyl overdoses in the media but the Yukon is not immune. Our small territory has seen 5 deaths linked to fentanyl in the past year. Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, told CBC News in December, “We’re seeing a whole range of circumstances ranging in demographics, range of socio-economic backgrounds. This is literally affecting the whole spectrum of society.” Fentanyl isn’t concentrated only in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, and it doesn’t discriminate between longtime addicts and first time users. The best way to be prepared if you or your friends are using illicit drugs is to know what to do in the case of a suspected fentanyl overdose.
IF YOU USE
- Don’t use alone
- Start with a small amount
- Learn about naloxone (Narcan)
CALL 911 – EARLY OVERDOSE SIGNS
- Severe sleepiness
- Slow heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Slow, shallow breathing or snoring
- Cold, clammy skin
- Trouble walking or talking
Knowyoursource.ca is a great website to find information about fentanyl. There are also treatment programs and resources available in the Yukon for anyone looking for support with alcohol or drugs. Find a complete list here.
Alcohol and Drug Services recently launched a Youth Intensive Program, a live-in 4 week treatment program for youth between the ages of 14-18. For more information on this program you can phone:
- 867-667–5777 in Whitehorse
- 1-855- 667-5777 toll free in the communities