A province-wide warning has been issued heralding that the deadly opioid fentanyl is increasingly entering recreational drug supplies in Ontario. A bootleg version of fentanyl, a drug that is more potent than heroin and carries a high risk of overdose, has been found in fake prescription pills such as OxyContin and Percocet in the province, as well as in substances like cocaine, MDMA, meth, and heroin.
The advisory released August 29 by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, and other groups warns that no "conventional field tests" exist for fentanyl and that it cannot be detected by "sight, smell, or taste."
The warning makes it clear: Using recreational drugs in Ontario is becoming more and more dangerous. Even if you aren't knowingly using opioids, if you use drugs in Ontario, you are now at risk of an opioid overdose.
"We know enough now to know bootleg fentanyl is here and very much has the potential for adding a whole new level of urgency to Ontario's existing opioid crisis," Michael Parkinson, community engagement coordinator at Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, told VICE. "This could make an already bad situation worse."
According to Parkinson, the list of substances and fake prescription pills tainted with bootleg fentanyl even goes beyond what was listed in the advisory, including counterfeit Xanax.
On the western side of Canada, the opioid overdose crisis continues to claim lives daily. Between 2011 and 2015, largely due to the rise of bootleg fentanyl, overdose fatalities went up 4,500 percent in Alberta. In BC, a public health emergency has been officially declared, overdoses went up 74 percent within a year, and it's been found that much of the heroin supply has been taken over by fentanyl in Vancouver.
In Ontario, it's unclear just how many opioid-related overdoses have occurred in the past couple of years because of a lack of released data by the province. However, according to the Ontario advisory, in 2014, a person died of an opioid-related overdose every 13 hours—a statistic that is worse than that for deaths on Ontario's roadways. Of those overdose deaths, 174 were due to fentanyl, an increase of 28 percent from the year before. To date, fentanyl is killing more Ontarians than any other opioid.
"We know bootleg fentanyl has arrived in Ontario and seizures by law enforcement and alerts by communities point to a growing concern of the same crisis that has unfolded in western provinces and all states bordering Ontario," Parkinson said. "Ontario is not on an island… It would be foolish to think we won't be affected by the same crisis unfolding elsewhere."
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