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Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit warns of potent tranquillizer in street drugs


Health officials in Simcoe County are warning of a new highly potent animal tranquillizer that may be circulating in the unregulated drug supply.

The development was reported by Toronto's Drug Checking Service (TDCS), a free and anonymous public health service offered at five harm reduction agencies in the downtown core.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) cannot test the drug supply in circulation, so it relies on the work of the TDCS to anticipate what might be coming to the region.

According to TDCS, a substance known as medetomidine/dexmedetomidine was detected for the first time in the city on Dec. 29, 2023.

"This is the first time that these drugs have been detected," said Cathy Eisener, a public health nurse with the SMDHU.

Medetomidine is a tranquillizer approved only for use on animals, while dexmedetomidine is approved for use on both humans and animals for sedation and pain relief.

While naloxone may help with an overdose of fentanyl, Eisener said it does not aid in stopping the sedative effects of the tranquillizer.

"That's a real warning to us that people could be in a deep state of unconsciousness for a prolonged period of time," she added.

The discovery highlights how new and more potent additives continue showing up in street drugs across the country.

Sarah Tilley is the Harm Reduction Manager at the Gilbert Centre in Barrie.

She said she isn't surprised that more potent additives are showing up in unregulated supply.

"This is why we need safe supply," Tilley told CTV News on Sunday. "If we continue to rely on unregulated street supplies, then we're going to continue to see these issues."

Tilley said the control of safe drug supply goes alongside the health unit's application for a Consumption and Treatment Services facility.

The SMDHU and advocates have been continuously lobbying for the Ford government to approve the site at 11 Innisfil Street in Barrie.

"We have alternatives; we know throughout Canada and throughout the world there are other programs and plans to support people who are using drugs," Tilley added. "We need to be courageous in Barrie and do the same."

While traces of animal tranquillizer have not shown up in Simcoe County's drug supply yet, it is believed it is only a matter of time before it does. Top Stories

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