ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — The overdose deaths of five people ages 40 to 67 in Abbotsford, B.C., over the course of nine hours Friday is a reminder that the opioid crisis does not only apply to the stereotype of young people in back alleys, police say.
Cst. Ian MacDonald said the five deaths happened separately over the course of just nine hours and four of the people were in their own residences or indoors.
The three men and two women all died alone.
MacDonald said it's time for the public to change their mindset about who drug users are because it is "an across-the-board problem."
"There are a gamut of people who are addicted to various drugs, many who are addicted to opioids and certainly based on provincial data, this isn't a back alley problem, this is an inside structures, inside houses, inside residences problem," he said.
There have been dozens of other overdoses in the community this week.
Police said that while it has become the norm to see a large number of overdoses in a short period of time due to the ongoing opioid crisis across the province, seeing so many deaths at once is still alarming and marks a record for the city.
It's too soon to definitively say that fentanyl or carfentanil caused the people's deaths.
But MacDonald said the sudden surge in overdoses signals the possibility that an extremely toxic batch of drugs is currently circulating on the streets.
Given the risk of the deadly batch of drugs making its rounds in the community, MacDonald said the best precautionary measures drug users can take to avoid a fatal overdose is to use lower doses and not be alone.
"When people are ingesting drugs and they're by themselves, there is no chance for someone to make a 911 call and there is no chance for someone to immediately administer (the overdose-reversal drug) naloxone," he said.
Unlike Vancouver and Surrey, MacDonald said Abbotsford does not have a safe consumption site.
The city includes rural territory and the population is quite spread out, he said, making it unclear whether such sites would be as effective in Abbotsford compared with larger urban centres.
"In a perfect world, there would be treatment available and people wouldn't gamble with their lives when they decide to occasionally use recreational drugs," he said.
B.C.'s coroner's service said 1,013 people have died from overdoses across the province from January to the end of August this year, surpassing a record 982 deaths in 2016.
The latest figures for 2017 show fentanyl was detected either alone or with another drug in more than 80 per cent of the deaths. In 2012, fentanyl was detected in just four per cent of overdose deaths.