The Dryden Observer

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Overdose deaths in region as powerful opioids enter Ontario

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

Northwestern Health Unit opens greater public access to overdose drug Naloxone

By Michael Christianson

Opioid abuse is on the rise in Canada and with new more powerful drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanyl hitting the streets concerns about overdose related deaths are impacting our region.

Reports from Kenora show that overdose deaths have already occurred in the city due to stronger street opiates.  In response to this opioid misuse the Northwestern Health Unit has expanded their overdose prevention program to include the general public. Before last month only those at risk of overdose were able to access the naloxone program through the NWHU but now family and friends who have concerns about someone overdosing can receive a kit.

Gillian Lunny, Manager of Sexual Health and Harm Reduction at the NWHU says the extended access is important because in most instances those who need naloxone cannot administer the drug to themselves in desperate times. 

Naloxone is a medication used to block the effects of opioids. 

“So say a mom who has a son who is misusing opioids and is scared he’s going to overdose,” said Lunny. “A mom can come in and get a kit from us so that if she ever was to find her son not breathing she would quite likely be able to save his life by giving this medication to him. In our area we’ve had, that I know of, at least ten times where naloxone has been used to save someone’s life, it’s a very effective program.”

Lunny says an increase in access will lead to more lives saved.

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and carfentanyl is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

Marcel Penner, supervisor with the Crisis Response Services in Dryden says he hasn’t seen a large volume of fentanyl abuse but says not all clients are comfortable listing what specific drugs they are on. 

“Fentanyl is a drug that is a little different from the other opiates available to people through prescription or even illegally on the street. The difference is fentanyl is provided in micrograms whereas other opiates such as oxycontin or percocet, these kinds of medication, morphine, they are prescribed in milligrams,” said Penner. “Someone who is used to abusing something like oxycontin if they come across something like fentanyl they may not realize that the amount they are going to use should be much smaller to get the same effect, they are actually overdosing themselves without even realizing it, it only takes so much of the drug to effect you.”

In Southern Ontario last week, street drugs tested positive for carfentanyl for the first time in the province. 

Waterloo Regional Police seized a number of green pills they said were manufactured to resemble oxycontin in connection with two overdoses in Cambridge and Kitchener, Ont.

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