First responders working on an overdose victim in Penticton in September, 2022. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

First responders working on an overdose victim in Penticton in September, 2022. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

Interior Health advising drug testing after recent overdoses

Testing equipment is available in communities across the Interior

In the wake of a surge of fatal overdoses and recent dangerous drugs, Interior Health is reminding people to get their drugs checked.

Since 2018, IH has brought in Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy equipment across the region, starting in Nelson and now including Kamloops, Merritt, Cranbrook, Trail, Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon.

The equipment is able to check the composition of drugs before they are used or cause an overdose.

In Kelowna, five fatal overdoses were recorded over just nine hours on Sept. 24.

An Interior-wide drug alert was issued following the overdoses, as well as testing that revealed drugs with higher than average fentanyl levels, benzodiazepines and xylazine in the region.

Benzodiazepines do not respond to naloxone and create challenges for first responders trying to reverse drug poisonings.

READ MORE: Interior-wide drug alert after cluster of fatal overdoses in Kelowna

The service is fast, free, confidential and most importantly it is the only safe way for people to know what is in their drugs as the illicit supply continues to be tainted and unpredictable.

Drug checking provides the most accurate information about what is in substances, so people who use drugs can make informed choices about where, when, and how much to use.

Drug checking is legal at approved sites. Whether someone is planning to experiment with drugs for the first time, rely on the illicit supply for pain relief, or use drugs on a regular basis and purchase from a familiar source, IH strongly encourages dropping off a sample beforehand for testing.

The technicians who provide the service are non-judgmental, and regardless of the results, drugs will not be confiscated and can be returned to you. Samples can be as small as a grain of rice, and results are typically available within 10 minutes.

In addition to FTIR testing, take-home fentanyl test strips are now available in more than 72 locations throughout the region.

Since 2019, illicit fentanyl and its analogs were involved in more than 85 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths.

For more information and to find a drug checking location near you visit drugchecking.ca.

To reach an Interior Health Mental Health and Substance Use centre near you call 310-MHSU.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

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