The COVID-19 pandemic may have distracted Manitobans from the drug crisis, but according to local outreach and addictions organizations, not only is the city’s meth supply is back up to normal levels, but deadly opioid cocktails are a threat as well.
One such cocktail, known as ‘purple heroin,’ has been showing up throughout the province in recent months, say local treatment agencies.
Daniel Daycome of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM) told 680 CJOB that it’s tricky to pin down exactly which substances are in a drug cocktail like this.
“Reportedly, purple heroin is a mixture of several opioids including heroin, oxycontin and fentanyl,” said Daycome.
“We’ve also heard it contains typically a stimulant ingredient, usually methamphetamine. Some jurisdictions’ samples have reportedly tested positive for carfentanyl which is a fentantyl analogue that is hundreds of times more toxic than fentanyl alone.
“I say this is what we think is in it, because determining the exact composition of a drug cocktail is challenging. When a cocktail like this becomes popular other drug producers may try to mimic it with mixed results.”
Marion Willis of St. Boniface Street Links told 680 CJOB her organization has seen more deadly opioid combinations on the streets, and that Winnipeggers would be shocked to realize the scale of the health crisis.
A drug known as ‘beige pebble,’ she said, is particularly dangerous.
“Beige pebble contains heroin, fentanyl, and a deadly synthetic cannabinoid,” said Willis.
“Because of how it’s cut, naloxone — which is normally used to revive people who are struggling with a fentanyl overdose — is not nearly as effective.”
Recent numbers from the Manitoba Fire Paramedic Service indicate that naloxone has been administered by responders significantly more this summer than it has over the past two years.
In July alone, the number of naloxone patients increased from 66 in 2019 to 231 in 2020.
The first 10 days of August this year had already eclipsed the total for that month in 2019.
A side effect of the coronavirus pandemic is that facilities that help drug users are limited in terms of space.
“During COVID, to accommodate the physical distancing, there are things that we absolutely must do — but it does have an impact in other areas,” said Willis.
“Instead of 30 detox beds, we’re down to 10.”
Daycome said AFM is dealing with the pandemic by offering an increased use of remote options for clients — including consultations by phone and online, as well as offering free coronavirus-related webinars on its website.
Winnipeg police Insp. Max Waddell said while meth is still a problem, people have turned more to opioids.
“Our community is facing many challenges with addictions and most recently overdoses, and we continue to see the drug trade evolve,” Waddell told 680 CJOB.
“Most recently we’ve seen more additives put in traditional depressant drugs such as heroin or even fentanyl.”