Two overdose deaths occurred in White Rock in less than 24 hours over the weekend, and police say one has been confirmed connected to the deadly narcotic fentanyl.
Both victims were men. One died in a home where two children were present, and the Ministry of Children and Family Development is involved, Staff Sgt. Daryl Creighton told Peace Arch News Tuesday morning.
According to Creighton, the first death occurred shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday, at a home in the 15900-block of North Bluff Road. A witness told police that the 34-year-old victim believed he was taking was a combination of heroin and cocaine.
“A blood test conducted at the hospital indicated fentanyl in the system and no other opioids, however, that has not been confirmed through the coroners’ service at this time,” Creighton said.
The second man – a 54-year-old described as a suspected heroin user – died around 12:30 a.m. Sunday at a friend’s home in the 15200-block of Marine Drive, and fentanyl is suspected, Creighton said.
The deaths were the city’s first this year that have been linked to fentanyl, Creighton said, noting White Rock recorded just one such overdose fatality in all of 2015.
“It appears at least one of (the two men) was unaware (that he was taking fentanyl), and the other one likely thought they were doing heroin,” Creighton said.
“Police are actively investigating to determine the source of the fentanyl.”
BC Coroners Service spokesperson Barb McLintock said by email at noon Monday that testing has not yet confirmed fentanyl.
“We don’t have any toxicology reports back yet and are unwilling to confirm anything until we do as preliminary information is too often wrong,” McLintock said.
Creighton said the deaths also prompted a conversation with City of White Rock officials as to whether steps should be taken to better-inform citizens of the risk.
“I’m aware other communities in the Lower Mainland have provided public forums to inform people of the dangers of fentanyl use.
“(We’re) working in conjunction with the city to determine if something like that is necessary at this time.”
According to recent coroners-service statistics, there were 622 illicit-drug overdose deaths in B.C. between January and the end of October. More than half have been linked to fentanyl – a synthetic opioid described at a recent community forum in Delta as 100 times more powerful than morphine.
A multi-prong response strategy has been underway since the province declared a public health emergency in April and created a dedicated task force in July.
Efforts include making naloxone much more widely available to reverse overdoses in progress. It was used to save 10 people in Whalley over the weekend.