Pubdate: Fri, 03 Mar 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Molly Hayes
Page: A1


Drug causes immediate loss of consciousness

PUBLIC HEALTH IS WARNING that fentanyl-laced crack has come to

The powerful drug - which causes an "immediate and dangerous loss of
consciousness" - is known as "takeover" or "dirty fentanyl."

Authorities believe it came here from Toronto, and Hamilton public
health staff have heard it's becoming more widespread - which is why
they're advising drug users to take extra caution.

Last week, 56 people sought care in Hamilton emergency rooms for
drug-related issues.

This is just one piece of data available through the city's new online
opioid surveillance system, which posts real-time information about
the local effects of the national opioid crisis and issues warnings
about dangerous drugs on the streets - like fentanyl-laced crack.

The city can't say yet whether "takeover" has been linked to any
overdoses or deaths in Hamilton. Even when it comes to their real-time
surveillance system, local officials are working with fragmented and
lagging data.

"Overdose monitoring and response has not been a priority to date,"
said Michael Parkinson, a member of the Municipal Drug Strategy
Co-ordinators' Network of Ontario (MDSCNO).

"And now we find ourselves in the crisis that was predicted, and many
communities around Ontario are scrambling, just like Hamilton, to
cobble something together on local tax dollars for what is a
provincial and national health crisis."

Close to 50 people are believed to have died of opioid-related causes
in Hamilton in 2015 (the latest year for which coroner data is available).

It could be months or even a year before we know the 2016 death

Parkinson commends the City of Hamilton for collecting real-time
opioid data and sharing it online but says what we really need is a
uniform tracking system, province-and countrywide.

In addition to drug-related emergency-room visits, distribution of
naloxone is also up.

The opioid antidote, used to reverse the effects of an overdose, was
available in an injectable form (like an Epi-pen), but is now provided
across the province in a nasal inhaler version.

More than 200 free naloxone kits have been given out to drug users in
Hamilton so far in 2017.

And according to the city's monitoring system, 44 of those kits were
used to revive people from opioid overdoses.

Yet the same system reports that just 30 calls have been made to 911
for opioid overdoses so far this year.

Deputy Chief Russell Crocker explained Thursday that Hamilton
paramedics "tick a box" when an opioid overdose is specifically
believed to have taken place. Those cases are the ones reflected in
this data.

The city emphasized that these cases are only the ones in which
opioids are the "primary contributing factor."

Asked if this data - 30 calls in two months - is reflective of the
real-life landscape for emergency responders in Hamilton, Crocker said
he couldn't say.

"We can only go based on what it's saying," he said.

"It may be low, which is a good thing.

"Has a trend hit Hamilton? Maybe it hasn't at this

Crocker acknowledges the tracking process is relatively new - a
product of Mayor Fred Eisenberger's opioid summit in early January.

Crocker said his staff are working with public health to refine the
tracking system and provide the best data possible.

"As we look forward to improving on the data that we collect,
potentially the numbers may be adjusted."
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MAP posted-by: Matt