Drug overdoses increased in the Orillia area over the last month, with deadly consequences.
While numbers aren’t available, it was enough for OPP to issue a warning.
“People are dying,” said OPP Sgt. Peter Leon. “It impacts families. It impacts people who know that person. Once they’re gone, you can’t get them back.”
Police are awaiting toxicology results in some of the overdose cases, but the suspected killer is fentanyl, and that’s why they were quick to send out a warning.
“Time is our enemy. Police are deeply concerned about this and we need to address the public,” Leon said. “There seems to be a common, recurring theme, and that’s the fentanyl.”
Police noted the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit issued a warning in February, after an increase in the number of overdoses was reported at hospitals in Barrie and Bracebridge.
“The culprit is believed to be bootleg fentanyl, a powerful and dangerous opioid that is being mixed into many illegal street drugs. This results in users unknowingly overdosing on fentanyl,” police said in a release.
Naloxone kits and training are available for free, but having the overdose-reversing drug on hand doesn’t ensure a user’s safety, Leon stressed.
“We’ve had cases where individuals have been given it and then (they leave),” he said, noting anyone who overdoses should seek medical assistance even if they have been saved by naloxone.
It’s rare for police to alert the public about an increase in overdoses, but “knowledge is power,” Leon said, urging anyone with information on criminal activity to contact police or Crime Stoppers.
Police have been stepping up enforcement efforts and have laid harsher charges against fentanyl traffickers in an attempt to deter them. A former ER doctor in Barrie was sentenced to two years in jail for trafficking. Last fall, the Canadian Press reported an increase in manslaughter charges being laid against fentanyl traffickers.
“They are holding these individuals accountable,” Leon said.
More information on opioid overdoses is available here.