The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is issuing an alert after recent testing found traces of fentanyl in the urine of people who reported only using heroin or only smoking marijuana.
The findings come from a urine drug screening (UDS) conducted this week at the Addiction Services Thames Valley Suboxone Clinic, said the alert, co-issued with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Addiction Services Thames Valley, and London police.
“When people use illicit drugs, there’s no way to know exactly what they’re ingesting,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, MLHU medical officer of health.
“Finding fentanyl in drugs like marijuana means that people who think they are doing something minor may end up dying of overdose.”
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more lethal than morphine, and even small amounts can prove to be fatal if ingested.
Dr. Ken Lee with the Suboxone Clinic noted that the findings suggest dealers are adding fentanyl to other drugs.
“Users are probably not getting what they think they’re getting, and someone is going to die from this.”
There are currently no ways to detect fentanyl in other drugs. Due to the risk of overdose, the alert recommends drug users carry a Naloxone Kit and that they not use alone.
In a statement, London police Chief John Pare said illicit drugs and non-prescribed medication can be deadly.
“The London Police Service recognizes that drug abuse and drug addiction is an unfortunate reality, but still strongly discourages anyone from ingesting any illicit substance,” he said. “Users have no way of knowing what they are ingesting and too often the results are tragic.”
The findings come as the country is gripped with an opioid crisis. According to statistics from various provincial agencies, fentanyl has contributed to deaths of several Canadians every day so far this year.
The alert also comes days after a city committee voted in favour of creating an Opiod Working Group to review London’s response to the growing opioid crisis and to make recommendations.
According to a report from the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, fentanyl’s contribution to opioid-related deaths soared by 548 per cent between 2006 and 2015. It is now the most common cause of lethal overdoses among this class of powerful painkillers.
— With files from Matthew Trevithick