New numbers released Wednesday show a record 231 people died from an illicit drug overdose on Vancouver Island last year and the epidemic is hitting our small cities and rural areas even harder than Victoria.
Nanaimo alone has recorded nearly double the deaths of a year earlier.
Holding hands to weather the rain Wednesday, Bryan Rogers and his girlfriend Becky were living out their own version of a love story on Nanaimo’s streets.
“I love this girl,” said Rogers. “The best thing that ever happened to me,” he added.
Yet after 2 years together neither is sure how long they have left, with what’s in his pipe costing so many people their lives.
“What you just lit up and what you just put in your body was Fentanyl,” we asked him. “Yeah as pure as I could get it,” replied Rogers.
The 36-year-old says Fentanyl has had a hold on him for about a year now and he knows his chance of surviving his deadly addiction is low.
“I’m strong but I’m a fentanyl addict living on the streets,” said Rogers, “so my chance of survival is pretty slim I imagine.”
New numbers released Wednesday on BC’s illicit overdoses back up his skepticism.
51 people in Nanaimo died from illicit overdoses in 2017, 22 more than the year earlier.
Despite the creation of a supervised injection site and widespread circulation of naloxone kits.
Henry Verthelette knows many who have died.
“In the last six months probably 10 at least that I’ve known from around here and lots that I didn’t know,” said Verthelette a longtime Nanaimo addict.
“Make a guy scared?” we asked him.
“Well cautious when you pick up the point hey,” he replied.
Chief Medical Health Officer for Island Health Dr Richard Stanwick said despite addicts awareness of Fentanyl rural areas of Vancouver Island are being hit harder than ever.
“Rates of overdose per 100,000 people both Central and North Island are higher actually than that’s being experienced in Victoria,” said Stanwick.
“Where it has almost surged to a point where if one does the calculation it has perhaps surpassed the combined deaths from suicide, motor vehicle and homicide so we have a crisis this crisis is not going away,” said Stanwick.
Experts are still trying to determine why more people are dying here, as Fentanyl’s hold on Bryan Rogers keeps him coming back for more.