Toronto Mayor John Tory held an emergency public health meeting in early August after a spike in deadly drug overdoses in the city. There have been 20 overdose cases since July 27, with six occurring in the same week. The mayor said these deaths were preventable and are causing devastation to families and to various Toronto neighbourhoods. But, what exactly is the culprit behind this deadly string of overdoses?
The suspected drug is thought to be fentanyl. Police suspect people may be buying drugs laced with fentanyl without the buyers knowledge. The rise of fentanyl drug use in Toronto is all too familiar in other parts of Canada like Vancouver, that have been dealing with the rise of this deadly drug. This opioid, often manufactured In China, has made its was to the streets of Toronto. The effects offer a bliss-like state similar to heroin, but with fatal consequences.
Fentanyl is often mixed in with other drugs like cocaine or molly, and people are none the wiser. People assuming they are partaking in casual drug use can find themselves with the highly addictive fentanyl in their bodies.
Fentanyl hydrochloride is an extremely potent pain reliever and has been used in the medical community for decades. It is even offered in some pharmacies in patch and lollipop form. Because fentanyl is so potent, the white powder can be easily mixed with cocaine, powdered sugar, and can be passed of as heroin or even OxyContin tablets.
It is clear there is a drug problem in Toronto that is causing deadly harm. The next step is addressing the issue and possible solutions. The most commonly used opioid receptor and reverse overdose drug is Nalaxone. Nalaxone will be offered at safe injection sites in the city at safe injection sites set to open this fall. Toronto Public Health has set up an interim site at their downtown office for safe injections, where drug users can be monitored and take their drugs in a safe environment. Future permanent sites are planned at various spots in the city and will be granted federal exemptions from the Controlled Drugs and Substance Control Act under the Health Minister.
Harm reduction and outreach workers applaud the effort in establishing safe injection sites, but many feel the City of Toronto is too big for the number of sites being proposed.
Over the weekend a pop-up overdose prevention site appeared in Moss Park to start offering assistance. Zoe Dodd, a harm reduction worker said 24 people visited the site since the tent opened and workers even helped save the life of one man who overdosed in the tent.
What are your thoughts on the drug overdose epidemic taking place in the city? Leave a comment below.