Opioid crisis: Addict says he's overdosed 25 times in one year
A year after B.C.'s top doctor declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, the number of people dying is still skyrocketing and causing untold devastation to families.
At the epicenter is St. Paul's Hospital, where three-quarters of Vancouver's overdose cases end up.
Health care workers say they're using more naloxone on drug users, which means there's more potentially-deadly fentanyl in their system to remove.
"We've had quite a lot lately who have gone up to ICU and have to be intubated -- not sure if they're going to recover," ER nurse Tanya Campbell told CTV Vancouver.
Patient Jonathan McCarthur, who was brought in to the ER because he overdosed, estimates he's OD'd 25 times in the past year alone.
This time, luckily, his friend injected him with naloxone, which reversed the effect.
Dr. Brian Lahiffe considers him one of the lucky ones.
McCarthur said he doesn't use heroin to get high, but started using it for back pain several decades ago. The difference now is that the heroin he injects is potentially packed with fentanyl, a super strong opioid being blamed for hundreds – if not thousands – of recent deaths.
"The crisis is getting worse," Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement Thursday.
He's calling on the B.C. government to provide "substitution therapy, clean prescription drugs, and treatment-on-demand options to all people with addictions to curb fentanyl’s catastrophic death toll."
B.C. is on a trajectory to hit over 1,300 overdose deaths in 2017, with 400 of those in Vancouver alone, Robertson said.
The figures represent a more than 50 per cent increase from March 2016.
As for McCarthur, he may be safe this time, but staff at the hospital believes it's not the last time he'll be in the ER.
"Yes, definitely, sad but true," Campbell said.
The drug addict says he's not afraid of dying, but he doesn’t want to die.
"I've lost too many friends, too much of my family,” he said.
A W5 investigation airing Saturday documents 48 hours in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Canada's ground zero in addiction. The documentary investigates how health care workers are scrambling to catch up to the astonishing death toll.