This past Friday, Brock Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre tweeted out a warning regarding more reports of fentanyl being found in street drugs. This most recent message stated that a high number of cases have recently involved fentanyl being found in a certain type of heroin in the Niagara Region.
The drug, known as “Purple Heroin,” has been found throughout Hamilton and Niagara, and has contributed to multiple overdoses over the past few weeks. It is believed to be laced with fentanyl, a substance that is highly toxic and can be fatal when consumed. In late February, Niagara Regional Police seized what they called a “significant amount” of this heroin believed to contain fentanyl along with crystal meth. Evidence from this suggested that these drugs were being trafficked.
Fentanyl is now being seen in Niagara and the surrounding areas, but it has been a growing problem in Canada over the last few years, with the drug typically being mixed with heroin or cocaine. Fentanyl is cheap and very potent, so it is added to drugs to multiply their effects, while also being more cost effective for the dealers. However, because it is added once the drug is on the market, the amount of fentanyl added is inconsistent and can often be lethal.
The issue is that it is nearly impossible to tell if a drug has been laced with fentanyl, meaning users are typically unaware when they are consuming the drug. Because of the deadly effects of the drug, it is important to not use drugs alone. This has caused some cities to create supervised injection sites, where drug users are able to use their pre-obtained drugs in a safe environment and under the supervision of trained staff who can help intervene in case of an overdose.
With the increase that has been seen in opioid use in Niagara, there has been talk of opening a temporary supervised injection site. This temporary site would serve as a trial run in determining whether or not it would be a long-term feasible solution to the growing opioid problem in the area. Toronto has also set up supervised injection sites, with other cities not only in Canada, but throughout the United States beginning to set up their own sites in highly populated areas or areas with a high percentage of opioid usage.
In order to combat the effects of an opioid overdose, naloxone is administered to the user. It works to quickly reverse the effects of an overdose from drugs such as heroin, morphine and fentanyl. However, naloxone only provides a temporary solution and medical treatment is still required. When used right away, it can help return breathing to a normal state and also restore consciousness. To help combat overdoses, free naloxone kits are available to past or current opioid users, their family members and friends and those recently released from prison. The idea is that these people are most likely to experience an overdose and as such are the most likely to need naloxone and further medical attention.
The tweet from Brock Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre served as a reminder that Brock is not immune to drug-related issues. While fentanyl continues to be a hot topic due to the growing use of opioids in Canada, the community as a whole need to be more aware of the current issues regarding drug use. As the occurrence of fentanyl being found in drugs continues to rise, more caution needs to be taken by those who are deciding to consume these substances.
For more information on the symptoms of fentanyl and where to get a naloxone kit, go to https://www.ontario.ca/page/understanding-opioids#section-3