‘Alarming increase’ in opioid overdoses, deaths across Ontario: OPP

File photo of prescription oxycodone pills. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Lennihan, File

There’s been an “alarming increase” in opioid overdoses and deaths across Ontario, with overdose deaths rising by 35 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of 2018, police say.

Since September 2017, OPP officers have administered naloxone on 79 occasions and saved 73 lives, police say, with the highest number of naloxone doses being administered in March and April.

“Every overdose occurrence will be thoroughly investigated,” OPP Supt. Bryan MacKillop said in a statement. “We owe it to each victim to thoroughly investigate every occurrence so we can target those who produce, import and traffic these harmful and deadly substances.”

According to a recently released OPP report on opioids, overdoses are occurring predominantly in the OPP’s central and west regions.

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Officers responded to over 620 overdose occurrences in 2016 and 1,373 in 2018, representing a 121 per cent increase, according to the report.

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“The number of suspected hydromorphone, fentanyl (and fentanyl analogues) and heroin seizures have increased from 2016 to 2018, whereas the number of occurrences where suspected oxycodone was seized has slightly decreased,” the report reads.

According to the report, fentanyl exists in many colours, including purple, white, brown and red.

The current trend is purple fentanyl, sometimes referred to as purple heroin, which OPP officers have been seizing in December 2017.

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The OPP Opioids Working Group, which was established to develop strategies and better position officers to respond to the opioid crisis, released the recent report.

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