Naloxone kits like this one are available at ANKORS in Nelson. (Carmen Weld)

Interior Health alarmed at spike in OD deaths

Interior Health reported nine suspected fatal overdoses in five days.

With Interior Health now reporting nine suspected fatal overdoses in five days, it’s worth knowing what resources West Kootenay residents have access to locally.

Interior Health has withheld which communities were impacted by the suspected overdoses to protect privacy, but asked about overdoses in the area — not necessarily fatal — Cheryl Dowden, executive director at ANKORS in Nelson, says the organization has seen an increase over the past year and a half.

“We’ve had folks that utilize our services [who] overdose and are brought back with Naloxone,” she said. “So Naloxone is playing, I think, a really positive role, but at the same time we’ve had folks that we work with pass away from overdose — so yes, there’s definitely an impact in our region and in the province as a whole.”

Dowden said it’s important for people to know that overdoses are happening and to take precautions.

In its overdose alert, Interior Health gave the following list of tips:

• “Don’t mix different drugs (including pharmaceutical medications, street drugs, and alcohol).

• Don’t take drugs when you are alone. Leave the door unlocked. Tell someone to check on you.

• Use less and pace yourself. Do testers to check strength — take a small sample of a drug before taking your usual dosage.

• Keep an eye out for your friends — stay together and look out for each other.

• Carry a Naloxone kit and know how to use it. A list of locations to get a kit can be found on the Interior Health website or on the Toward the Heart website.

• Recognize the signs of an OD: slow or no breathing, gurgling or gasping, lips/fingertips turning blue, difficult to rouse (awaken), non-responsive.

• If someone thinks they may be having an overdose or is witnessing an overdose, follow the SAVE ME steps and call 9-1-1 immediately, do not delay.”

ANKORS also offers drug testing and support for people to come up with a harm reduction plan.

Dowden especially encourages people not to use alone.

“As much as possible avoid using alone, but if you absolutely have to use alone then have people check on you, leave your door open, have Naloxone available and have people you know in your life who know how to use Naloxone,” said Dowden.

ANKORS offers free Naloxone kits — as do the Castlegar & District Health Centre, the Kiro Wellness Centre, and the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital — and offers Naloxone training.

Training can also be done online at towardtheheart.com or at naloxonetraining.com.

For more information on ANKORS, visit ankors.bc.ca.

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