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Public Health: multiple drug-involved overdoses observed in recent weeks

Naloxone kits, which are used to help interrupt opioid overdoses, are available free of charge in many places in Kingston. Photo by Dr. James Heilman.

Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health is once again warning residents of a toxic batch of drugs circulating in the area. 

According to Tia Maatta, Public Health Promoter for KFL&A Public Health, they’ve seen multiple overdoses in the past several weeks. “We are convinced there is a heightened risk,” she said.

Based on information shared with Public Health from local harm reduction programs and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the overdoses are being accompanied by unusual reactions. Health workers in the field have reportedly observed unusual rapid loss of consciousness, chest pain or stroke, seizures, involuntary movement, and high blood pressure among drug users.

Public Health said the increased risk appears to be related to substances that are lime green initially, and that become darker in colour during preparation.

“Do not use alone,” Maatta said, as using drugs alone is a major risk factor for experiencing a fatal overdose.

“Not using alone can be a challenge, and an extra challenge during a pandemic,” she added. She encouraged users to consider taking advantage of local Consumption Treatment Services (CTS) for support.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, practice physical distancing when consuming drugs around other people or connect virtually with someone that could call for help if needed,” said KFL&A Public Health in their statement on Friday Oct. 24, 2020. “For more information about support options, visit KFL&A Public Health’s Getting Help page.”

KFL&A Public Health is also urging all people who use drugs not to mix drugs, and to do test amounts.

Opioid epidemic continues locally

On Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2020, Kingston’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore explained during a delegation to City Council that Kingston is currently caught between the COVID-19 pandemic and an opioid epidemic.

He revealed that during the first four months of 2020, one young person died every seven to ten days. Maatta explained more specifically today that from January to May 2020, 19 people in the KFL&A area died from opioid overdose. She said she is unable to comment on how many deaths have occurred more recently, as the datasets are still being processed.

“What we commonly see is that middle-aged range, 25 to 45. But everyone who uses drugs is at risk. Risk of overdose does not discriminate over any demographic,” Maatta said.

Kingston’s CTS site is currently located at the Integrated Care Hub at Artillery Park, open seven days per week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. This site provides a safe and supportive place where anyone who wants to consume drugs can do so under supervision of people who are trained to respond to an overdose. The Rapid Access Addictions Medicine Clinic at Street Health Centre is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. by appointment to provide individuals with support related to substance use.

Public Health encourages all residents 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 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m.
  • HIV/AIDS Regional Services: Monday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m.
  • Artillery Park Drop-In Hub: Open 7 days per week, 23 hours per day (closed daily from 10 to 11 a.m.)
  • Napanee and Area Community Health Centre: Monday to Friday from 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 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Home Base Housing Street Outreach Team: Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Change Health Care: Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Residents are reminded that an overdose is a medical emergency. Anyone who suspects or witnesses an overdose should call 9-1-1. 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 9-1-1. 

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Samantha Butler-Hassan

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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