Three men and two women died from drug overdoses in just over nine hours in Abbotsford Friday.
Three were in homes, one in an outreach centre and the fifth was found slumped against a wall next to a business. At least two were found by family members.
All five died alone.
The victims range in age from 40 to 67.
“This is just horrid,” said Const. Ian MacDonald, with the Abbotsford Police Department.
“I’ve been doing this gig for eight and a half years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
MacDonald has previously issued stark warnings about batches of drugs mixed with fentanyl and carfentanil. He’s raised the alarm when there have been fewer than five fatalities in a week.
He said the ages of the dead and the fact they died alone will hopefully help to break some stereotypes about the opioid crisis and whom it affects.
“Yesterday, we lost five citizens, and family and friends lost five loved ones,” MacDonald wrote in a press release.
More than 1,000 people have died from overdoses in B.C. this year. That number continues to grow, despite hard-fought efforts to save lives.
The overdose reversing drug naloxone has saved countless lives in Abbotsford.
“…Think of what the numbers would be like without naloxone,” MacDonald said.
“People are being revived multiple times in a week and so whatever the number is, I would argue you can put an asterisk beside that because we have, in no way shape or form, figured our way out of this crisis. And so whatever that number is going to be, it is going to be bigger tomorrow.”
And public warnings can only go so far, when entrenched drug users already know the danger, but continue to use, he said. It’s not as easy as simply telling someone to stop.
“You and I both know that’s not going to happen. We issue these warnings with, certainly, the hope to create awareness among the entrenched users. We hope to a certain degree, cards on the table, to scare people away from trying or experimenting and we hope to inform that middle group of occasional users that it’s particularly hot out there right now.
“But really, we are just trying to do whatever we can to stick our finger in the dike.”
MacDonald said he urges anyone planning to use not to do so alone and to reduce their dose, as it appears yet another “toxic batch” of drugs are circulating in Abbotsford.
He said that these deaths also have a heavy toll on the first responders — police, ambulance and firefighters — who respond to these calls. It’s possible, he said, that a single shift that started at 7 a.m. responded to all five deaths Friday.
“That’s a lot of notifications of next of kin and it’s a lot of trauma for friends, family, and first-responders.”
MacDonald said that police are increasing their patrols of known areas frequented by drug users but that if people are using alone indoors, that won’t help to prevent more similar deaths today.
“It’s not like it’s fruitless to do that. We need to do that. It’s just harder to get into those places where today, or tomorrow, or the next week, people are once again potentially going to be using on their own,” he said. “So all we can do is keep hitting that air-raid siren and let people know this is what’s going on and we have to, even though we’re going to have more patrol resources, we’re going to have way more drug squad officers out there trying to pro-actively warn people. We still have to hope — this is where the leap comes in — that people are going to heed the warning and at least make some adjustments.”