Ridge Meadows RCMP Supt. Jennifer Hyland joins the panel of speakers. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Maple Ridge hosts fentanyl forum

How to get through to ‘weekend warriors’

Addicted drug users are taking precautions, like using drugs in small amounts first, using with a friend, and making sure they have a Narcan kit.

It is the “weekend warrior,” or casual drug user, who has become at increased risk of dying from an overdose.

That was one of the messages at the Fentanyl Forum held in Maple Ridge on Wednesday evening.

In the wake of a rising death toll from opioid overdoses in B.C., a second fentanyl forum in as many years was held in the city, with health officials, police and addictions workers all taking part.

Organizer Susan Carr told the audience at Thomas Haney Secondary that there had been 1,013 overdose deaths in B.C. by the end of August, which was up from the 982 through the same period last year.

Ridge Meadows RCMP Supt. Jennifer Hyland talked about a bust that took 17,000 doses off the street.

Emphasizing how dangerous fentanyl is, she recounted an officer who had been handling the drug brushed white powder off his uniform, and the amount of the drug he absorbed through his skin was enough to give him overdose symptoms.

Annika Polegato of Alouette Addictions listed the many addictions services her agency offers, including education at the elementary school level which is on the increase.

Alouette had a team that brought a drug kit, showing bongs, pipes, packaging and even some product.

“Many people are not familiar with this kind of thing, yet they could find it in their kid’s bedroom,” said Alouette outreach counsellor Scott Williams. “Plus, it’s a great conversation starter.”

Dr. Ingrid Tyler noted that although Maple Ridge’s fatal overdose rate has dropped, at a rate of 535 overdoses per 100,000 people it is still “near the top end” among Fraser Health Communities.

She noted that 40 per cent of overdoses are happening within one kilometer of home.

“These are happening in our communities, to our community members.”

More to follow.

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