Grey Bruce Public Health is reporting an alarming spike in recent drug poisonings, highlighting concerns about the toxicity of the local unregulated drug supply.
Fourteen overdoses, including one fatal overdose, have been recorded in Grey-Bruce over the past three days – from Friday, March 31, to Sunday, April 2, 2023. Ten of the 14 overdoses occurred in Owen Sound, with the ages of those involved ranging widely.
Fentanyl is the drug suspected in nearly all of the overdoses. There have been many reports of individuals believing they were taking cocaine or methamphetamine, but were unknowingly taking fentanyl.
Naloxone was used successfully as an intervention in nine of the non-fatal overdoses.
“We are deeply concerned about the high number of drug poisonings that took place over the weekend,” says GBPH Physician Consultant Dr. Rim Zayed.
“This is a drug toxicity issue, whereby people are using drugs that have been unknowingly cut or mixed with fentanyl or other toxic substances. We’re seeing evidence of an increasingly toxic drug supply across the country; an issue that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. All unregulated street drugs should be deemed highly toxic and potentially fatal. Some of the substances that can be mixed with unregulated street drugs do not respond to the life-saving effects of Naloxone.”
Dr. Zayed says people who use drugs must exercise the utmost caution in determining the ingredients, dosage, and source of the drug they are using. It is a potentially life-or-death issue. Public Health is working on making the drug overdose messaging more intentional and relevant to specific audiences.
In response to the recent drug poisonings, Public Health and its partners have been undertaking outreach efforts in locations of concern to identify risk factors. The goal is to educate people who use drugs and their loved ones about the toxicity of the local supply, and harm reduction strategies.
Addictions care, mental health care, and other supports are part of the integrated care provided by SOS (the Supportive Outreach Service), which is set up at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market every other Wednesday, including April 5, 2023, from 1 to 3 p.m. SOS is located at the Hanover Civic Centre on the alternating Wednesdays, also from 1 to 3 p.m.
People who use drugs should never use alone and always carry a Naloxone kit. There is a high risk of overdose when the user is not aware of the substance they are using and suppliers are not aware of the ingredients. People who use drugs need to consult with SOS and reach out for help.
If it’s not possible to use with someone else present, call the National Overdose Response Service at 1-888-688-6677. A NORS operator will stay on the line while the drug is being used. If the caller becomes unresponsive, the operator will call 911.
Public Health advises people who use drugs to:
- Go Slow. Always start with a low dose and increase slowly, especially if trying something new or restarting use.
- Take extra caution if mixing substances. Mixing substances can increase the risk of harm and drug poisonings.
- Use only new supplies. This reduces the risk of getting or passing on an infectious disease. Supplies are available at GBPH and community partners.
FREE naloxone kits are available at participating pharmacies in Grey-Bruce, Grey Bruce Public Health, and via GBPH’s community partners.
Overdose is a medical emergency. Call 911 or go to the closest Emergency Department. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides protection from simple possession charges when 911 is called for an overdose.