WINNIPEG — Three Winnipeg police officers are recovering after potentially being exposed to the powerful opioid fentanyl.
The incident happened after officers responded to a car crash in the Elmwood area on Monday afternoon.
As police were dealing with the scene of the crash, they started to feel ill and light-headed. Evidence in the vicinity suggested fentanyl may have been present.
“Our front line officers carry naloxone kits,” Winnipeg Police Service Cst. Rob Carver said. “These officers administered the naloxone amongst themselves. They were ultimately conveyed to hospital.”
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid narcotic, linked to an increasing number of overdoses and deaths over the last several years.
In December, the province announced it was spending $30,000 to purchase 1,300 naloxone kits for police officers.
“My understanding is physically they are okay,” Cst. Carver said.
“But it’s got to put a real emotional strain, a real personal strain, knowing that you could potentially die. I think anyone that goes through that has to have it lingering in the back of their mind… that without naloxone someone may have died. We may have had three officers who might have died.”
Police believe this was the first time officers have had to use the antidote on each other.
“It can be a very difficult and demanding situation where you have to make a split second decision,” Winnipeg Police Association President Moe Sabourin said.
“This is just another example of how much more dangerous and complex our profession has become.”
But it is not just police who deal with fentanyl overdoses and administering naloxone. Often firefighters and paramedics are the first on scene.
Global News has learned that in the first four months of 2017, WFPS members used naloxone on 304 people in the city.
At that pace, this year’s usage could surpass last year’s total of 727 patients who received the drug.
“It’s a good thing our first responders come in pairs because there are situations where one may need to administer (the antidote) to the other,” Sabourin said. “We just hope the day never comes where both are incapacitated and there’s no one to administer naloxone.”
Last year, there were 17 deaths directly or indirectly caused by fentanyl, compared with 20 in 2015.