A woman, left, prepares to inject herself with an unknown substance as a man sits in a wheelchair outside Insite, the supervised consumption site, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A woman, left, prepares to inject herself with an unknown substance as a man sits in a wheelchair outside Insite, the supervised consumption site, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. street drugs poisoned with benzos could lead to ‘catastrophic’ overdoses: advocate

Public Safety Ministry says drugs containing benzodiazepines were detected in 51% of deaths in February

A drug policy adviser to the City of Vancouver is warning of a dangerous drug saturating British Columbia’s illicit supply in much the same way fentanyl did several years ago.

Karen Ward says benzodiazepines, or benzos, make overdoses more complex because they are often combined with opioids but do not respond to naloxone, an overdose-reversing treatment.

Figures released Thursday by the BC Coroners Service show 158 people died from toxic drugs last month, pushing the total number of deaths linked in the province’s overdose crisis to 498 since the start of the year.

It says in a joint statement with the Public Safety Ministry the deaths in March are a 41 per cent increase over the 112 fatalities recorded in the same period last year.

The deaths also mark the third consecutive month that more than five people died every day from illicit drug use in the province.

The service says the use of tranquilizing drugs containing benzodiazepines was detected in 51 per cent of deaths in February.

RELATED: B.C. nears 500 fatal overdoses in 1st quarter of 2021; 158 deaths in March

“They’re very potent and now we’re finding they have just saturated basically the entire drug supply in much the same way fentanyl did several years ago,” Ward said, adding the drug knocks people unconscious for long periods of time.

“When combined with an opiate, it can produce a very, very serious overdose, a catastrophic overdose because you’re down and because it’s not an opiate, so naloxone has no effect on it,” Ward said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

B.C. overdoses

Just Posted

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

SD20 now has an electric bus. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay-Columbia School District 20 adds electric bus to fleet

Bus will be incorporated into Castlegar route for next school year

Painting by Dave Davies from Shaver’s Bench facing Teck Trail.
Happy 120th Birthday to the City of Trail!

The town of Trail Creek- or Trail Creek Landing - was incorporated as a city on June 14, 1901.

Cropped photo: Silver Screen Drive-in will be in the upper parking lot of Waneta Plaza.
Summer drive-in returns to Trail unveiling blockbuster movies

PHOTOS: Scroll to bottom for a trip down memory lane to the Auto Vue Drive-In

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read