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15-year-old girl among victims of apparent heroin overdoses
Vancouver police have issued a warning to drug users after two people, including one 15-year-old girl, died of apparent heroin overdoses in recent days.
Sgt. Randy Fincham said the teenager was found alone in a West End apartment at around 10:30 a.m. Monday, but police are still investigating whose care she was in.
“At this point, this case seems to be a tragic accident where this young girl possibly had experimented with heroin and eventually it took her life,” Fincham told reporters Tuesday.
On Saturday night, a 39-year-old man was also found dead in an apartment on Boundary Road.
Police are still awaiting the results of toxicology tests in both cases, but confirmed both homes contained evidence of illicit drug use, most likely heroin.
Investigators won’t know whether the two victims ingested tainted drugs until the tests are completed, but police are warning drug users to be extra caution in the meantime.
Fincham said all heroin users should utilize the Insite safe injection facility, where medical personnel can assist with potential overdoses.
“People need to be aware that they have no control over what’s in these substances that they’re putting in their body,” Fincham said. “It’s a very dangerous game to play.”
Police said they have no information on changes in heroin potency or pricing, or a potential trend in teenagers experimenting with heroin. Fincham said it’s very rare for police to encounter a 15-year-old who has used the drug.
“Traditionally we don’t see that as the drug of choice for our youth or for young children in the community. It’s shocking to see and I think it raised an alarm with police officers.”
Insite, Vancouver Coastal Health, the B.C. Ambulance Service and several local police departments have been advised about the overdoses.
Addictions counsellor Robb McGirr said youth heroin abuse in Metro Vancouver spiked between 1999 and 2002 then dropped off for about a decade, but he fears it could be seeing a resurgence.
McGirr said some teenagers will smoke heroin because it doesn’t have the same stigma as using needles, but the risks remain.
“Some kids simply don’t understand how serious these other hardcore drugs are and the dangers,” he said. “They’re lumping them into all the drugs. It’s just one big experiment.”
In the late-90s, it wasn’t just kids from broken homes who ended up addicted. McGirr said it’s important for all parents to have open, frank discussions about the drugs available to their children and the real-world consequences that come with them.
“You can have a very well-grounded individual from a very stable environment that can explore their use. We experienced that in spades,” he said. “We saw very, very high function kids get derailed very quickly.”
Many parents were forced to speak with their children about heroin and drug abuse over the summer after “Glee” star Cory Monteith overdosed on the drug in a Vancouver hotel room.
The actor had been open about his substance abuse problems, having dropped out of high school as a teenager to do drugs on the streets of Victoria, but seemed to have them under control before skyrocketing to stardom on TV.
Monteith’s body was found at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel on July 13. He was 31 years old.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Lisa Rossington