On Wednesday two health units in southeastern Ontario issued warnings to residents about a toxic batch of drugs circulating in Kingston and Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Hastings and Prince Edward counties.
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health says there has been an unusually high rate of overdoses in the region over the past several days. Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services has responded to 10 overdoses over the past five days, including five on Monday, Nov. 30 alone.
There has been an increase in overdose-related 911 calls, according to Hastings and Prince Edward counties. Public health says initial findings indicate that a batch of drugs is circulating that may be contaminated with fentanyl. The affected drugs appear greenish-grey or purple.
In addition, several recent overdoses have been linked to purple fentanyl.
In other cases, contaminants may be colourless and therefore undetectable.
Public health officials say substances may be highly contaminated with potent opioids like fentanyl, requiring multiple doses of naloxone to reverse an overdose. The health unit also says the possible presence of non-opioid drugs, such as etizolam, in the local drug supply means additional emergency care may be needed to reverse an overdose.
Residents are being encouraged to always call 911 if an overdose is suspected.
“We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic is adding additional stress to everyday life and this might lead to increased substance use for many individuals,” says Dr. Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health and CEO at HPEPH.
“If you are struggling with substance use, you are not alone. If you use drugs, please take steps to reduce your risk, and know that you can reach out for caring and confidential support.”
KFL&A Public Health says since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the drug supply has become more contaminated and unpredictable, increasing the risk of overdose. KFL&A Public Health is urging all people who use drugs to not mix drugs, do test amounts, never use alone, and have a naloxone kit.
Residents are also being reminded that an overdose is a medical emergency. Anyone who suspects or witnesses an overdose should call 911. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides some legal protection against simple drug possession charges for anyone who experiences, witnesses or responds to an overdose and calls 911.
As a result of the increase in overdoses, all residents are encouraged to be aware of the signs of an opioid overdose and pick up a free naloxone kit. Free kits are available at the following locations:
- KFL&A Public Health (Kingston office): Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Street Health Centre: Monday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m.
- HIV/AIDS Regional Services: Monday to Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m.
- Integrated Care Hub: Open seven days per week, 23 hours per day (closed daily from 10 to 11 a.m.)
- Napanee and Area Community Health Centre: Monday to Friday 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.
- St. Vincent de Paul Society of Kingston: Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Martha’s Table: Monday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Home Base Housing Street Outreach Team: Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
- Change Health Care: Monday to Friday 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday to Sunday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.