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ANKORS says drug poisoning crisis remains a major issue

17 East Kootenay residents lost their lives to toxic drugs last year and ANKORS officials said the situation remains dire, even as fewer people died.

“People think the numbers are down and things are getting better. We’re not seeing that on the ground,” said team lead and harm reduction coordinator Polly Sutherland. “Just a few weeks ago, there were over 10 overdoses in a 12-hour period in Cranbrook.”

Sutherland believes there were no deaths associated with that string of drug-poisoning events.

The biggest concern for outreach organizations remains to be the highly toxic street drug supply.

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Sutherland also pointed out that men made up 79 per cent of the 2,272 toxic drug deaths in 2022 and 55 per cent of all illicit substance deaths happened in a private residence.

“We’re encouraging people not to use alone at home. If you do, let someone else know and have a naloxone kit,” said Sutherland. “We encourage people to have some kind of buddy system when they’re using.”

“We are extremely concerned for people’s safety. We’re offing drug-checking services. It’s free and confidential.”

Sutherland hopes the province’s recent steps to decriminalize small amounts of certain drugs for personal use will be a step in the right direction.

“We in harm reduction are hoping that this is going to lead us to a regulated drug supply that people can access,” said Sutherland. “The drugs out there right now are poison and it’s causing extreme risk for a lot of people.”

More: BC reports second-worst year for drug deaths since start of overdose crisis (Jan. 31, 2023)

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