Fentanyl can kill whether 'you're Prince or my son': Father of late teen
Published Thursday, June 2, 2016 5:01PM PDT
Medical examiners have confirmed that Prince died of a fentanyl overdose, a cause of death that resonates with many B.C. residents.
A report on the megastar's death was released on Thursday, formally identifying the cause that many already suspected.
In the days after his death, an attorney for Prince's doctor told media the star had been fighting a drug addiction.
Authorities began to review whether an overdose was to blame, and whether he had been prescribed drugs in the weeks before his death. The medical examiner's report showed that the 5-foot-3 singer died from an excessive amount of fentanyl, and weighed only 112 pounds at the time of his death.
Prince's death resonated with fans around the world, but the drug that brought an end to his life is hitting residents of B.C. particularly hard.
The star's story struck a chord with Vancouver resident Mark Bodie, whose son died last year of an overdose of the same drug. Jack Bodie, 17, died on a Vancouver park bench after taking a pill laced with fentanyl.
"It doesn't matter if you're Prince or my son, or anyone else. It's going to get you because it's so powerful," Bodie told CTV News on Thursday.
Bodie said he hopes the death will "shine a light" on the devastating consequences of using too much of the drug.
"It's everybody's problem… It's everywhere."
Fentanyl is a fast-acting opioid that is 50 to 100 times more toxic than other narcotics, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. The drug can be prescribed to control severe pain, but the dose must be closely monitored to prevent an overdose.
Although the drug can be used safely with supervision from a medical professional, it has also made its way to the streets.
In April, the province's top doctor declared a public health emergency when the number of illicit drug overdoses reached 200. At the time, Dr. Perry Kendall estimated the year's death toll may reach as high as 800 if the trend continues, up from 474 in 2015.
Not all of the overdoses were fentanyl related, but a month later, Kendall revealed that the number of deaths as a result of the drug is now up to 49 per cent. Last year, less than one-third of all overdose deaths in B.C. involved fentanyl.
"Part of the danger is that the drugs we now have are so toxic, such a small amount can cause a fatal overdose," Kendall told CTV News on Thursday, after learning of Prince's cause of death.
"It goes to show actually that nobody is really immune to this."
The best way to fight the spike in overdoses is education, according to a Vancouver-based advocacy group that represents drug users.
Hugh Lampkin, with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, said the drug is "flooding" through the province.
"People are going to use… Knowing how to use safely is the difference between life and death," Lampkin said.
He added that the drug is often disguised as something else, so users don't know they're taking something stronger until it's too late.
Earlier this year, Delta police said they uncovered a large batch of fentanyl which was being disguised as heroin. Investigators said some dealers are selling fentanyl as heroin, or selling heroin laced with the stronger drug, because fentanyl is less expensive.
Lampkin is calling for temporary safe injection sites around the region, not just in the Downtown Eastside, to keep users safe.
"If you're serious about the fact that so many people are dying and overdosing then you need to do something about it."
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Scott Hurst