Fentanyl hits Kamloops homeless population hard

By Tanya Cronin
April 6, 2016 - 4:49pm Updated: April 6, 2016 - 5:35pm

KAMLOOPS — Fentanyl has claimed countless lives across the country, the drug seeping into social circles of all kinds. 

With the number of overdoses steadily increasing, the highly powerful painkiller has made headlines everywhere.

Recreational drug users have fallen victim, and those living on the streets are feeling the impact as well. 

WATCH: Full story by Tanya Cronin
 

Local agencies are seeing a 'spike' - in the number of homeless people dying of what is 'suspected' to be the result of ingesting a drug laced with fentanyl.

It's gaining popularity among drug dealers and suppliers because it's cheap to produce and extremely powerful. But the potency of Fentanyl, is what makes it incredibly deadly.

"As we hear these deaths pile up, some of them have been very close to us and it's just a really sad situation," says Stan Dueck, Executive Director, New Life Community Kamloops.

100 times stronger than Heroin, Fentanyl can be fatal even in small doses, and it doesn't discriminate. The drug is responsible for killing young professionals, and now an alarming number of homeless people.

"Absolutely we've seen a spike, it's totally unsuspecting, people aren't aware, and if they are aware, they're desperate and still trying to feed their addiction and they're getting caught up."

Like many agencies, New Life Community Kamloops isn't immune to the affects of what has now become a killer street drug. Executive Director Stan Dueck says Fentanyl-related deaths have increased, and is having a serious impact on both staff and clients.

"They see accidental deaths all the time, I hate to use the word accidental for anything having to do with overdoses or Fentanyl in particular, which is murder, but they grieve, they hurt, they know, they try to avoid it as best they can, but sometimes they don't."

The drug has hit close to home for New Life, and it's a problem worse than ever before. In January, Lance Ritchie died while in detox at the agency, when he took what was thought to be Oxycontin to help him sleep, but was instead a high dose of Fentanyl.

"Tragic, very tragic, totally unsuspecting on his part no question about it, it's hit very close to home for us."

In BC, last year nearly 140 people died of a Fentanyl overdose, 57 were here in the Interior. According to the BC Coroner's Service, in 2014 there were nearly 50 homeless deaths in the province, many of which were drug related, and those number continue to skyrocket. 

New Life Community Kamloops is doing what it can to raise awareness, but says it all goes back to mental health, and helping those struggling with addiction get the help they need. 

"When you get down to where these people are everyday, they all have friends, they all have families, they're all in a situation they probably don't want to be in, it's a really sad state for us," says Dueck.

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