Pubdate: Thu, 17 Aug 2017
Source: Barrie Examiner (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017, Barrie Examiner
Author: Cheryl Browne
Page: A1


Psst. Pass the word along. Much like the warning at the '60s Woodstock
concert to avoid the brown acid, authorities are warning today's
recreational drug users to carry naloxone kits in case their drugs are
laced with fentanyl.

"We're alerting recreational drug users that the MDMA (ecstasy) or
cocaine they're taking could be tainted with fentanyl," said Janice
Greco, manager of injury and substance misuse prevention at the Simcoe
Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU).

Greco is sounding the alarm after the health unit was warned of a
spike in overdoses between Aug. 9 and Aug. 13 by its surveillance
program at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH).

During that five-day period, 22 people were registered into the
emergency department after overdosing, which is roughly 50% higher
than any five-day period in the last two years.

Of those 22 people, nine had taken heroin or OxyContin. The other 13
people didn't disclose what they had consumed.

"Drug use isn't new but the lethality of fentanyl is," Greco said.
"This is the tip of the iceberg. I think there's a big percentage of
people who won't go to the emergency department."

Greco said the medical community is concerned about the "bootleg
Fentanyl" used to cut heroin, OxyContin, ecstasy or cocaine.

"This is totally black market stuff, there's no testing - or standards
- - to ensure what they think they're buying is actually what they're
getting," she added.

The health unit's website ( explains opioids
like morphine, oxycodone and Fentanyl are prescription pain killers,
but like heroin, can be used to get high.

However, because opioids are depressants, they slow down the
drug-user's breathing.

When someone uses more than the prescribed amount or a combination of
drugs - or the drug includes substances they're unaware of, like
fentanyl - they can stop breathing altogether.

Now fake OxyContins are on the streets in Barrie, Greco said, adding
people believe they are taking one type of pill they're comfortable
with but are ending up with completely different results, including

Greco said because the prevalence of fentanyl is now likely - and so
dangerous - she's urging drug users to take precautions before they

"Because this is now a possibility, get a Naloxone kit, use it and
call 911. It is a medical emergency," she said.

As the effects of Naloxone only last 60 to 90 minutes, depending on
which drug has been consumed, users might need a second dose of
naloxone, she said.

RVH's emergency room physician, George Karasmanis said he worked the
Aug. 11, 12 and 13 weekend.

"We have overdoses pretty much every day," said Karasmanis. "They're
not all narcotic-based, some are cocaine and other drugs and alcohol
is a big one, too. But there does seem to be more narcotic overdoses

Once the naloxone is administered, the patient sleeps and is monitored
for a number of hours to ensure they can breathe on their own.

Karasmanis said staff attempts to find the motive behind taking the
drug; if there are mood disorders, anxiety or depression or if the
person is suicidal.

"And we try to determine how long they've been taking drugs and if we
can, we suggest they visit the RVH Addiction Centre on Wellington
Street for withdrawal support," he said.

For people unsure about helping an overdose victim, the Good Samaritan
Drug Overdose Act that came into effect earlier this year might ease
those concerns.

The Act provides some legal protection for people who may be on
parole, on probation, have possession of a drug or are working through
a conditional sentence.

The act was created to protect those who stay or leave from the
overdose scene before help arrives.

Dr. Lisa Simon, associate medical officer of health at the health
unit, offered additional advice for drug users.

"Anyone using drugs recreationally should ensure they have someone
with them when using (drugs)," Simon said.

"They should use small quantities to start with, and make a plan and
know how to respond to an overdose," she added.
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MAP posted-by: Matt