Authorities in British Columbia are renewing warnings about the dangers of fentanyl in the wake of four recent deaths.
This past Saturday, 17-year-old Jack Bodie collapsed in a Vancouver park after ingesting a street version of the powerful painkiller. He was taken off life support on Sunday. A teenage friend who also overdosed is expected to recover.
Bodie was the second fentanyl-related fatality of the weekend, following the death of 31-year-old North Vancouver man on Friday. Earlier in the week, the BC Coroners Service confirmed that fentanyl played a part in the deaths of Hardy and Amelia Leighton, whose bodies were discovered in their Vancouver home on July 20. The couple, aged 31 and 30, left behind a two-year-old son.
In the first seven months of this year, 55 people in the province have died from fentanyl overdoses, compared to 75 in all of 2014. In 2012, there were just 15 such deaths.
But as Maclean’s reported in a June cover story, problems with the opioid, which is up to 100-times more potent than morphine, aren’t just confined to the West Coast. In Ontario, the drug now kills twice as many people as heroin. And all across North America, it is quickly becoming a choice high for addicts, despite the danger.
Government efforts to combat opioid abuse may even be fuelling fentanyl’s growth. A recent study from researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto found that a 2012 ban on OxyContin in Ontario has had the unintended effect of pushing up both fentanyl prescriptions and street demand for the drug. Cheap, ubiquitous and incredibly deadly, fentanyl truly is the King of Pain.