New statistics from the Langley City Fire Rescue Service show drug overdoses have become a near-daily occurrence in the community, with fire chief Rory Thompson projecting 350 incidents by the end of 2017.
Thompson reported the latest numbers to Langley City Council on Monday.
“This is not just a Langley problem,” Thompson told council.
“This is a problem across Greater Vancouver, it’s a problem across British Columbia (and) Canada, in fact North America.”
The fire department figures show there were 80 overdose calls in the City in 2015, 228 overdose calls in 2016, 270 so far this year, and at the current pace, there will be about 350 by the end of 2017.
“It’s a problem that we don’t see any abatement in, in the near future,” Thompson said.
All City firefighters, including paid on-call firefighters, have been trained in the administration of the anti-overdose naloxone drug (Langley RCMP have also been trained).
Previously, the Langley City fire chief reported different combinations of drugs are being seen on the street, including fentanyl, a synthetic drug that is extremely potent and considered the main cause of the spike in overdose cases.
The Langley RCMP have reported Carfentanil, a synthetic, large animal sedative that is far more powerful than fentanyl, has been seen in the Langleys by drug enforcement investigators who have seized it from local drug dealers.
Carfentanil, which can be fatal in very small amounts when it is used as an additive to street drugs, is believed to have first arrived in Metro Vancouver in November 2016.
Deaths from drug overdoses have been averaging more than 100 a month in B.C. since 2016.
Figures from the BC Coroners Service show the proportion of illicit drug deaths where fentanyl was detected continues to climb. Last year, roughly 60 per cent of these deaths included fentanyl, but that number has risen to 72 per cent by early this year.
Figures from the Langley Township fire department suggest, based on the number of calls to assist BC ambulance with suspected overdoses, there has been a 48 per cent increase in such calls from 2016 to 2017.
There were 113 such calls in 2016, and there have been 123 so far this year.
Last year, there were no incidents where Township firefighters had to use naloxone. This year so far, there have been 21.
Workload gets bigger
The Langley City fire department report also noted that the overall number of calls has risen steadily over the years, from between 500 and 600 calls per quarter in 2011, to between 700 and 800 per quarter this year.
“It’s getting up there,” Thompson said, adding there did not appear “at first blush” to be any single cause to explain the increase, but the service was planning to take a closer look at the statistics.
“We’re going to do a bit more research,” Thompson said.