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Alarming spike in overdoses as public health reports 14 cases in 3 days

Fentanyl pills are shown in an undated police handout photo. (The Canadian Press/HO - Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams) Fentanyl pills are shown in an undated police handout photo. (The Canadian Press/HO - Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams)

There have been more than a dozen overdoses in the Owen Sound area during a three-day span.

Grey Bruce Public Health (GBPH) 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, were reported in Grey-Bruce from Friday to Sunday.

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," said Dr. Rim Zayed, a GBPH physician consultant.

"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," Zayed said.

All unregulated street drugs should be deemed highly toxic and potentially fatal because some of the substances mixed with unregulated street drugs do not respond to the life-saving effects of Naloxone, he said.

Recognizing that it is a potentially life-or-death issue, the health unit is making its 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. Their goal is to educate people who use drugs, and their loved ones, about the toxicity of the local supply and harm reduction strategies.

Addictions, mental health and other supports are part of the integrated care provided by Supportive Outreach Service (SOS), set up at the Owen Sound Farmers' Market every other Wednesday. SOS is located at the Hanover Civic Centre on alternating Wednesdays, from 1 p.m. 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 unaware of the substance they are using, and suppliers are unaware of the ingredients. People who use drugs need to consult with SOS and reach out for help.

If it is not possible to use it with someone else present, call the National Overdose Response Service (NORS) 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.

The health unit 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 poisoning.
  • Use only new supplies. This reduces the risk of getting or passing on infectious diseases.

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 emergency department.

The Good Samaritan, Drug Overdose Act, provides protection from simple possession charges when 911 is called for an overdose. Top Stories


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