An estimated 250 people turned out for a public presentation on fentanyl at Fulton Monday evening hosted by Interior Health and the Vernon School District. - Submitted Photo

Fentanyl crisis hitting home

The game of Russian roulette that drug users are playing has family and friends living in fear

The game of Russian roulette that illicit drug users are playing these days has family and friends living in fear.

The rise in fentanyl-laced drugs, and the deadly toll it is wreaking, is what drew approximately 250 people out to a public presentation on the topic Monday at Fulton Secondary.

Interior Health and the Vernon School District provided information on the drug and Naloxene (used to treat overdoses) while answering questions and providing advice.

“It’s a conversation that we’re obviously going to need to continue because it’s changing our society,” said Doug Rogers, district substance abuse prevention counsellor.

The same day as the presentation, some alarming numbers were reported by a Victoria pharmacy in a CBC article. The pharmacy provides free testing of street drugs and has found more than 90 per cent of the dozens of samples it has tested contain some amount of fentanyl. But there is still no way of knowing just how much fentanyl there is in drugs.

“This is the kind of stuff you don’t experiment with because it’s life changing,” said Rogers. “One experiment changes your life.”

For Vernon, the drug overdose rates are staggering – 115 over a 7.5 month period – more than Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton and Nelson.

“Per capita, we’re right up there with Vancouver,” said Rogers. “How does a place like Vernon have more of a problem than Kelowna?”

Which is why local authorities are taking the problem very seriously.

While there isn’t currently a problem among students, local schools want to be prepared and are providing Naloxene training to administrators and health care workers in all five high schools. Training is expected to be completed by the end of April.

For those in the community who want to protect themselves, Naloxene kits are available at any drug store for approximately $60 and are available at the health unit for those who can’t afford it, Rogers advises.

Those who are worried about loved ones are also urged to watch for what Rogers terms the APB signs and symptoms: Attitude – showing anger more often or adversely, becoming quieter than normal

Performance – a cease in activities they once loved

Behaviour – new friends, new attitudes, lying or misleading

“If I was really scared for my kid I would take my kid to the doctor and have them tested,” said Rogers. “We have to not be afraid to get between our kids and drugs.”

There are a number of resources in the community, including talking to the intake team at the Vernon Health Unit.

The Youth Hub at Teen Junction (open Wednesdays at 2 p.m.) is another resource for students struggling with substance use.

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