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Man dies of drug poisoning after substances laced with animal sedatives surface in Victoria

Six years into the toxic drug poisoning crisis, deaths on Pandora Avenue have become a weekly affair, an outreach worker says

By Brishti Basu
August 18, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Man dies of drug poisoning after substances laced with animal sedatives surface in Victoria

Six years into the toxic drug poisoning crisis, deaths on Pandora Avenue have become a weekly affair, an outreach worker says

By Brishti Basu
Aug 18, 2022
A small memorial honouring Chris Schwede grew outside his tent on Pandora Avenue Thursday afternoon. Schwede died of a toxic drug poisoning early that morning. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily
A small memorial honouring Chris Schwede grew outside his tent on Pandora Avenue Thursday afternoon. Schwede died of a toxic drug poisoning early that morning. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Man dies of drug poisoning after substances laced with animal sedatives surface in Victoria

Six years into the toxic drug poisoning crisis, deaths on Pandora Avenue have become a weekly affair, an outreach worker says

By Brishti Basu
August 18, 2022
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Man dies of drug poisoning after substances laced with animal sedatives surface in Victoria
A small memorial honouring Chris Schwede grew outside his tent on Pandora Avenue Thursday afternoon. Schwede died of a toxic drug poisoning early that morning. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily

On the sidewalk right in front of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction building on Pandora Avenue sat the grieving partner and friends of Chris Schwede, who died of a toxic drug poisoning early Thursday morning.

None of them are ready to talk about his death just yet.

CTV News reported that Schwede was found dead in his tent alongside a sample of a drug, believed to be laced with an animal sedative, that has been making the rounds in Victoria this week.

As I sat with them that afternoon, Schwede’s partner noticed a bylaw officer trying to clear away her dead boyfriend’s belongings which lay on a grassy section of the sidewalk.

“Leave that alone!” she told him, as people around her chimed in, telling the officer they would clear it up later. The bylaw officer paid no heed to them—until he was informed that someone had just died.

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Six years into the toxic drug poisoning crisis, deaths on Pandora Avenue have become a weekly affair, according to Our Place Society outreach worker, Evelyn.

Evelyn was helping the loved ones of the deceased by printing out photos of Schwede and his partner—who is planning a memorial—when I met her. She requested to be anonymous, stating she could lose her job as Our Place Society does not allow workers to speak up without going through their communications director.

According to her, the 12 hours during which the supervised consumption site at Our Place Society is closed overnight are the most critical hours. “Because that's when [people are] using a lot of stuff, and they're dying because it's closed,” Evelyn said.

This week appears to be a particularly dangerous one for the drug poisoning crisis in Victoria with the emergence of Turquoise Down, a substance that contains a mix of carfentanil, benzodiazepines, and xylazine, an animal sedative that can be fatal to humans.

Island Health has issued a drug poisoning advisory in its wake, but according to the Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project, xylazine is not new to the region. “We've been reporting consistent Xylazine in the supply for the last year. In our last monthly report (June), Xylazine was found in 44 samples,” the group shared on Twitter. “It’s long, long, long past time for a safer supply.”

Grant McKenzie, communications director at Our Place Society, told Capital Daily he saw several people in the block on Wednesday who were in severe psychosis after consuming the drug. According to him, it took five doses of Naloxone to revive one person who was poisoned by it this week.

Evelyn is certain this is the poisoned substance that killed Schwede on Thursday morning, because of how quickly it took his life. One of his friends says he rushed over with a Naloxone kit when he saw what was happening, but first responders stopped him from administering it—it was already too late.

With a lack of adequate treatment beds for substance users in the region, an ever more dangerous street supply of drugs, and a constantly disappointing search for housing, the mood on Pandora Avenue is one of hopelessness and despair.

As we talked, a firetruck wailed into the bike lane next to the temporary inhalation site on Pandora Ave. “It’s probably coming to an overdose right now,” Evelyn pointed out immediately. “It’s usually the fire trucks that come first.”

Sure enough, a team of three firemen jumped out, ready to help yet another victim of BC’s drug poisoning crisis.

A firetruck pulls up on Pandora Avenue in response to another toxic drug poisoning. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily

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