The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police issued a grim warning Monday morning. It says deaths from overuse of the opioid fentanyl are skyrocketing, and the organization is cautioning that this province is on the verge of an even more shocking spike in the number of fentanyl-related fatalities.
While fentanyl, itself, is abused for its heroin-like effects, bootleg fentanyl – or fentanyl that is hidden inside phoney prescription pills such as OxyContin and Percocet, and even in other substances like cocaine, MDMA, crystal meth and heroin – is on the rise.
In a media release issued August 29, 2016, the association says, “In 2014, a person died of an opioid-related overdose every 13 hours, exceeding deaths on Ontario’s roadways.” But with bootleg fentanyl becoming more prevalent on the streets, the dangers are more urgent, the release states.
In Peterborough, the Peterborough AIDS Resource Network (PARN) is partly responsible for the street drug strategy.
“It’s one of the most deadly, if not the deadliest substances out there these days,” says PARN’s Chris Jardin. “Fentanyl in just its regular form takes only the equivalent of two grains of salt to kill a person.”
“It is a problem in other areas. Have we seen it in Peterborough? Not necessarily. What we’ve been seeing in Peterborough is our drug problem is still cocaine, but we’re now seeing it mixed with fentanyl, which is a huge concern,” Peterborough deputy police chief Tim Farquharson says.
While the prevalence of bootleg fentanyl is higher in the western parts of Canada, Ontario isn’t far behind, Farquharson adds. And the association of police chiefs agrees.
“Ontario overdose fatality data for 2016 is not expected until late 2017 or 2018, however, 2016 has thus far been a record-breaking year for both overdose alerts, and for seizures of bootleg fentanyls by Ontario’s enforcement agencies.” – Ontario Association of Police Chiefs
The Municipal Drug Strategy Co-ordinator’s Network of Ontario applauded the announcement from the association. It has been sounding the alarm for months about the urgency of dealing with bootleg fentanyl. It states “deaths from bootleg fentanyl in Alberta have risen 4,500% for the period 2011-2015.” That’s partly because unwittingly ingesting fentanyl can lead to a rapid overdose death. In essence, people are dying, accidentally, and they’re dying quickly. Their only hope may lie in the antidote that buys them a little time – if someone administers it.
Peterborough drug strategy officials like those at PARN have been handing out naloxone to those who may be using street opioids. Naloxone can temporarily ease the effects of a drug overdose, buying time in critical moments. Officials say it’s important naloxone gets in as many hands as possible.
“Everybody at the community is at risk; if you use substances of any kind, at any time, it is a good idea to have naloxone on hand,” Jardin said. In the Kawarthas, naloxone kits can be picked up at PARN and FourCast.