Pubdate: Thu, 18 Jan 2018
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The London Free Press
Author: Megan Stacey
Page: A1


Three deaths, two hospitalizations, 48 hours.

It doesn't get much scarier.

As if the deadly opioid drug crisis sweeping London and the rest of
Canada isn't alarming enough, London police amped up their warnings
about the fallout Wednesday in the wake of three suspected drug
overdose deaths and two hospital emergency cases spread over several
days this week.

The move came as city police and the Ontario Provincial Police held a
rare joint public information meeting Wednesday night about the
dangers of fentanyl, the most sinister opioid drug and one that's
already been implicated in deaths in Southwestern Ontario.

It was also the focus of dire warnings last summer by police and
public health agencies about other street drugs contaminated by the
narcotic that's 100 times more powerful than morphine.

"The only way you can ensure you're not going to suffer from a fatal
overdose on street drugs is not to use street drugs," said London
police Deputy Chief Daryl Longworth after Wednesday night's
presentation at the London Central Library.

But he noted the community response has to go beyond an
abstinence-only "don't do drugs" message.

"Unfortunately, there are people suffering from addictions. We have to
look at how we can help those people," Longworth said.

Police were still waiting for toxicology test results to pin down the
cause of the three deaths this week, but said two women were found
dead Monday on Maitland Street and on Wonderland Road South, with a
man also found in critical condition at the Maitland Street address.

Barely two days later, one man was found dead and another in medical
distress at the Maitland Street site on Wednesday.

"We don't know if it is related to illicit opioid use or another drug,
but once again, we are urging people to be careful if they are going
to use any drug because we know fentanyl and carfentanil (another
powerful street drug) are in London," Deputy Chief Steve Williams said
in a statement.

The warnings come as London gets ready Friday to announce the location
of a drug overdose-prevention site, a temporary measure until public
health officials find out if London will get federal approval for a
more controversial way to reduce the drug toll - a supervised
consumption site or sites, a safe place where users can do drugs under
medical supervision and get connected to other community resources.

Police, the health unit, and frontline workers have been warning for
months about the dangers of fentanyl, which is often cut into other
drugs such as cocaine and heroine. Drug users may have no idea they're
even consuming the dangerous substance.

At Wednesday's presentation, a manager from the area public health
office stressed that drug users need to keep safety in mind.

"Don't use alone - you can't save yourself," said Shaya Dhinsa of the
Middlesex-London Health Unit.

Advocates point to London's plan to open supervised drug facilities as
an answer - or at least the start of one - to the drug issues dogging
the city.

There's been a backlash from some Londoners over the harm-reduction
measure, but the director of the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection program
in London said the sites for supervised drug consumption are key to
addressing addiction issues in the city.

"It's the vital piece to provide the necessary tools to the most
marginalized folks in our community," Brian Lester said.

Those sites include trained medical professionals and clean supplies,
such as needles. Professionals at those sites are also equipped with
naloxone, the closest thing to a cure for opioid overdoses, which can
stave off overdose or death and buy at least enough time to get to a

The area health unit distributed 700 naloxone kits in the final three
months of 2017.

And as for fears that supervised drug-use sites will only enable
addicts, Dhinsa was direct. "They can't consider addiction treatment
if they're dead," she said.

Lester echoed that support.

"That's one of the key things that all the evidence points to - when
people are utilizing this service, overdose death doesn't happen," he

Federal officials last month reported nearly 1,500 Canadians died of
opioid-related overdoses in the first half of last year, with the
nation's chief public health officer saying the total number of
overdose deaths in 2017 was on track to surpass 4,000 when figures for
the full year become available.

By comparison, just short of 2,900 opioid-related deaths were reported
for 2016.

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A 39-year-old woman is found dead and a man in critical condition at a
Maitland Street address A woman, who hadn't yet been identified, is
found dead of a suspected drug overdose at a Wonderland Road South


Investigators return to the Maitland Street address and find another
man dead and another in medical distress.
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