A highly potent opioid has been found in illicit drugs found in the Quinte Region, the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health Units confirmed last week.
The Belleville Police Service had drugs found in two recent seizures in the city tested and the results confirmed the presence of carfentanil. There have also been two confirmed overdoses related to the substance and an overall increase in hospital visits due to opioid overdoses in recent weeks.
A backgrounder provided to media by the health unit describes carfentanil as a “potent and dangerous” opioid that is a form of fentanyl, but 100 times stronger. The substance is reportedly 10,000 times stronger than morphine and 4,000 times stronger than heroin.
Originally, it was intended for veterinary use in sedating large animals like elephants and it was never meant for human use. For humans that use, a dose of 20 micrograms — smaller than a grain of salt — can prove fatal.
The health unit advises the substance is most commonly white and powdery and it can look similar to cocaine or heroin, but it can also come in other forms. It cannot be seen or smelled and there’s no way of knowing if an illicit drug is laced with carfentanil.
Signs of an opioid overdose may include a person not waking up easily or at all, slow or erratic breathing, fingernails or lips that turn blue, a limp body, deep snoring or gurgling, pin-point pupils and vomiting.
Local medical officer of health Dr. Pietr Oglaza said if recreational drug users feel they must get their fix, they should take precautions. “Using drugs that could be contaminated with even a very small amount of carfentanil can be fatal,” he said. “If you use, don’t use alone and ensure you have a (Naloxone/Narcan) Lifesaver Kit.”
Users should never use at the same time and it is recommended they tell others where they are. They are also advised not to mix drugs.
Oglaza is also reminding the public that those who seek help because they or another person has overdosed cannot be charged for possession or use of illegal drugs due to Canada’s new Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act.
The Lifesaver Kits, which include naloxone nasal spray are available at all Hastings Prince Edward Public Health offices, including the one at the Prince Edward Family Health Team office at 35 Bridge Street in Picton at no charge. Spray kits and injection kits are also available at several pharmacies — including the Wellington Pharmacy, Rexall, the County Drug Store and NoFrills — and a number of community centres across the region.
More information about how to use the kits is available online at www.hpepublichealth.ca.
Oglaza has also recommended that parents talk to their children about the dangers of drug use and the risk of overdose.