Drug alert issued in B.C. city over high risk of fatal overdose

Drug alert issued for Merritt, B.C., on May 6, 2022.

A B.C. health authority issued a warning Friday after a drug tested in one city showed a high level of fentanyl.

Interior Health said the drug, sold as down and tested in Merritt, contained 25 to 30 per cent of the ultra-potent opioid fentanyl. It also had benzodiazepines.

The drug is a light, yellow, chalky substance, Interior Health said, adding there was a high risk it could lead to overdose or fatal overdose. It's also likely to cause long periods of sleep and drowsiness.

The warning from Interior Health came days after B.C. released its March report on fatalities from illicit drug overdoses. 

Data released Tuesday revealed 165 people died of suspected illicit drug toxicity in March, marking a five per cent decrease from the month before, and from March 2021.

Even so, last month's figure was the second-highest number of deaths ever recorded for that month.

While benzodiazepines were present in the drug tested in Merritt, officials said Tuesday it appears the detection of those drugs across the province was down 32 per cent in March. The presence of "benzos" in street supplies is concerning, because they can block the effects of naloxone.

Interior Health advised users to get their drugs checked and to use with others or at an overdose prevention site. The health authority still recommended carrying a naloxone kit, and starting with a small amount and spacing out doses of the drug. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione