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Alert issued for New West following uptick in toxic drug overdoses

Fraser Health says high levels of bromazolam, a benzo and beige powder sold as heroin were recently found in New West.
A toxic drug alert has been issued for New Westminster as of 1 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2023.

There appears to be a recent increase in toxic drug overdoses in New Westminster, according to Fraser Health.

The regional health authority issued an alert for the city just after 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7, as a result of the findings.

"High levels" of bromazloam were found, as well as a benzodiazepine and a beige powder sold as heroin, Fraser Health said. No opioids, however, were found in the powder.

Fraser Health added there's an increased risk of overdose for opioid users who unknowingly inject or inhale the drugs.

The latest report from the BC Coroners Service, published Nov. 1, showed there were 29 illicit drug toxicity deaths in New West between January and September.

That's just three fewer than the 32 deaths reported in all of 2022.

According to the coroners service, New Westminster has accounted for two per cent of all of the unregulated drug deaths in B.C. in the first nine months of 2023.

If you believe you're witnessing an overdose, Fraser Health encourages the public to call 911 and stay with the individual, give one breath every five seconds and, if on hand, administer naloxone while waiting for first responders.

The authority also lists the following tips for safe drug use:

For people

  • Use less than you normally would
  • Do a tester; try a little before your regular amount
  • Try not to use alone, and if you do, have someone check on you 
  • Stagger use with friends so someone can respond if needed
  • Know the signs of overdose (early signs may include unusual snoring, or taking less than one breath every five seconds)
  • Call 9-1-1 quickly when you notice something isn't right (the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides immunity from simple possession charges for those who call 911 in the case of an overdose)
  • Provide breaths (every five seconds until the person regains consciousness or help arrives)
  • Get naloxone (Click here to search for locations)

For organizations

  • Discuss overdose prevention strategies with clients, as appropriate
  • Review the organization's overdose response plan and check first aid supplies including CPR masks
  • Frequently check areas where overdoses might occur, including washrooms, stairwells and quiet spaces
  • Ensure staff know how to respond to an overdose, including calling 9-1-1, providing breaths and administering naloxone
  • Ensure the organization's address is displayed publicly (so it can be provided to the 9-1-1 operator)
  • Consider posting a sign informing clients that naloxone is available, and inviting them to contact staff in the event of an overdose 
A toxic drug alert has been issued for New Westminster as of Nov. 7, 2023. By Fraser Health