Thirty-eight people died from suspected drug poisoning in the Peterborough area during the first half of 2023.
Peterborough Public Health’s opioid harms portal reports that from Jan. 1 to June 30, there were 38 suspected drug-related deaths within the health unit’s jurisdiction of Peterborough, Peterborough County, Hiawatha First Nation and Curve Lake First Nation.
Five of the deaths occurred in June. Data for July is not yet available.
Comparatively, there were 59 suspected fatal drug poisonings for 2022 — approximately one person every seven days. There were 44 suspected fatal overdoses in 2021.
Over the past year — July 2022 to June 2023 — there have been 71 suspected drug-related deaths, or a death every six days.
The data comes after the health unit issued its latest drug alert for the region following the Canada Day long weekend, when it detected more than 15 drug poisonings that required responses by 911 first responders and hospital emergency department staff.
“At this time, a specific substance has not been identified as the cause of the poisonings,” the health unit stated. “However, there are reports of a light green substance and pink substance being of concern.”
Emergency department visits
Emergency department visits for drug poisonings also jumped in June with 32, up from 25 in May but down from 39 in April.
Through the first six months of 2023, there have been 195 emergency department visits for drug poisonings — down from 285 during the first half of 2022.
Over the last 12 months (July 2022 to June 2023), there have been 449 drug poisoning emergency department visits. Of the visits, 53 per cent were men and 51 per cent were made by people between the ages of 25 and 44.
In June there were 25 calls to 911 for opioid poisonings, up from 15 in May. To date in 2023, there have been 147 calls to 911 for opioid poisonings.
Sixty-one per cent of the 302 calls over the past year were made by men. Sixty-five per cent were people aged 25 to 44.
Of the 302 calls, nearly 19 per cent (18.9) saw paramedics use naloxone to help counter the effects of an opioid poisoning, according to the portal data.
The health unit says anyone who uses drugs, or knows someone who does, should take the following precautions:
- Don’t use drugs alone — visit the Consumption Treatment Services site at 220 Simcoe St. (open 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily).
- Test a small amount of the drug before you use it.
- Avoid mixing drugs or sharing drugs.
- Avoid using damaged or modified pipes/needles.
- If you are alone, call the National Overdose Response Service (NORS) virtual safe consumption at 1-888-668-NORS (6677), or call a friend.
- Ensure that emergency services can be contacted in the event of an overdose.
- Keep a naloxone kit on hand. You can get a kit at most pharmacies and needle exchange sites. To find out how to access naloxone visit peterboroughpublichealth.ca and search for “opioids” or find the Accessing Naloxone pdf.
Use the health unit’s Drug Reporting Tool to anonymously report overdose incidents and harms in the community. Under Canada’s Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, anyone who seeks medical help for themselves or for someone else who has overdosed will not be charged for possessing or using drugs for personal use.