VANCOUVER -- A prominent Vancouver drug advocate says he's tested thousands of samples of street drugs in an effort to prevent overdoses and save lives.

Dana Larsen set up a testing service at his dispensary on East Hastings Street in 2019 and has tested about 10,000 samples so far. 

The goal, he says, is to help people know exactly what they're taking and prevent anyone from using drugs that came from a poisoned supply. Larsen says he's able to help people make informed decisions about the drugs they use. 

"It's hard to count how many overdoses we prevented but we've definitely had many examples of people, when they find out what's in the drugs they have, they leave them with us," Larsen told CTV News Vancouver. 

"They don't want them anymore because they have things in there they don't want to take or they're not what they thought they were."

By the last week of 2020, B.C. was on track for its deadliest year ever in the overdose crisis.

While final figures for December haven't been released yet, when there was still a week left in the year 1,548 people had died from an overdose in the province. The previous yearly record of illicit drug toxicity deaths was 1,549 in 2018.  

"To me this kind of service should not be necessary," Larsen said. "Users should be able to get drugs that are safe and tested when they buy them." 

In November 2020, 153 people died from an illicit drug overdose in B.C., which was an 89 per cent increase over the number of deaths reported in November 2019.