Niagara overdoses rise, despite drug busts last year
Dangerous street drugs continue to claim victims in Niagara, despite a significant increase in the amount of fentanyl Niagara Reginal Police seized in the past year, said Positive Living Niagara’s StreetWorks Program Director.
Although the recent PNR report indicates that $19.7 million of fentanyl was seized in 2021, compared to less than $2 million in 2020 and less than $700,000 of drugs in 2019, Talia Storm said her agency had not noticed a decrease in the availability of the drug. .
“Unfortunately, we are still seeing an increase in deaths and ER visits,” Storm said. “We certainly haven’t found all the solutions at this stage.”
Niagara Emergency Medical Services paramedics responded to 1,001 suspected overdoses last year, up from 630 in 2020. Paramedics were called to 209 suspected overdoses in the first four months of this year.
Emergency room visits related to opioid overdoses increased by an average of 83 per month last year, compared to 60 per month in 2020 and 58 per month in 2019.
There were 13.5 deaths per month in 2021, compared to 13 in 2020 and eight in 2019.
Storm said increased access to a safer supply of pharmaceutical grade substances is needed to have a real impact on the crisis.
“We know public procurement is toxic. It’s unregulated and there are a lot of challenges and a lot of unknowns with that,” Storm said.
Drug seizures, she added, do not take away the need for people to use drugs.
“People who are addicted should always have access to a substance that is as safe as possible for them. This is where safer supply is absolutely key to changing that.
Storm said the Overdose Prevention and Education Network of Niagara (OPENN) has been working hard on initiatives related to safer supply, “which is a welcome change for many member agencies around the table looking to look at this.” .
She said OPENN also works to ensure that potentially dangerous pharmaceutical drugs are properly disposed of.
The network is partnering with the Niagara Region, the Ontario Pharmacists Association and the police to hold a prescription drug drop-off day on Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
All old or unused prescription medications can be dropped off at Fort Erie Leisureplex, Fleming Memorial Arena in Lincoln, Niagara Falls Community Health Center, Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Center, Niagara Region Headquarters in Thorold and at the Jack Ballantyne Memorial Arena in Welland.
“As part of a kind of spring cleaning, we urge people to also check their medicine cabinets and bring any old or expired medications to drop off at one of the six locations,” Storm said.