10 fatal overdoses in 5 days: Toronto Public Health issues alert

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10 Fatal Overdoses in 5 Days: Toronto Public Health Issues Alert

Social workers call for supervised consumption centers to be opened to drug users inhalant drug.

Toronto is seeing an apparent increase in fatal drug overdoses smoked drugs.

Toronto Public Health issued its first drug alert this year. Ten people have died of a suspected opioid overdose in five days.

Preliminary data from Toronto paramedics suggests the overdoses occurred from 17 to July 21, out of a total of 21 suspected fatal opioid overdoses reported this month.

Public health officials point to fentanyl as the primary culprit. According to them, this substance continues to circulate in the local black market with an unpredictable potency and [strength of] contamination.

The Toronto Drug Checking Service found high amounts of this deadly drug added to other substances such as crack.

We are very alarmed because the supply of drugs is what harms people, especially the supply of opioids, says Hayley Thompson, the organization's project manager, which provides people who use drugs timely and detailed information on the content of the substances they are taking.

The increase in the concentration of fentanyl in illicit drugs is what is at stake. origin of the overdose crisis, says Ms. Thompson.

The trend of fatal overdoses continues to be high in Toronto.

Updated figures from the Office of the Chief Coroner revealed that approximately 511 people in Toronto died of an opioid-related overdose in 2021 (and 54 additional probable deaths) and another 539 in 2020 – an increase 71% and 80% respectively compared to 2019.

In an email sent to CBC, the City states that overdose deaths are preventable and are largely due to the x27;unregulated drug supply. This supply greatly increases the risk by providing access to very powerful opioids combined with unexpected and worrisome substances.

Toronto Public Health also suspects a potential increase in deaths from opioids and stimulants that are smoked.

According to reports from health services emergency, pipes and other items used to inhale drugs were present in a number of overdose cases.

However, the use of smoked drugs is not accepted in accessible supervised consumption centers across the city, laments Jolene Eeuwes, manager of the safer opioid supply program for the South Riverdale Community Health Center. .

And this, despite some demand from users in this regard, she notes.

Currently, supervised consumption sites allow users to inject, not smoke, their drugs.

We currently only have sites that offer services to people who inject, not smokers, says Eeuwes. It adds that the death of 10 people in such a short time is devastating.

It's something we've been advocating for a long time: to have safer inhalation spaces for people to consume the substances, because we know the supply at all levels is toxic.

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The last time the City issued an alert about rising deaths from smoked opioids was in October of last year. This type of death then accounted for 30% of the 164 accidental opioid-related deaths from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 in Toronto.

The Toronto Public Health report further indicates that suspected non-fatal overdoses within the City's shelter system have increased rapidly since May 2021.

The Toronto Police Service has responded to 1,496 calls for suspected non-fatal opioid overdoses last year in the City's accommodation system alone, representing an 85% increase from the previous year; previous year.

Nick Boyce, director of the Ontario Harm Reduction Network, points out that these calls are straining the health care system and causing trauma in the community.

Until the federal government decriminalizes and regulates drugs, and other levels of government support safer alternatives, such as [better] pharmaceutical grade we will continue to see alerts and people will continue to die unnecessarily, he said.

With information from Vanessa Balintec, CBC

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