Overdose awareness campaign focuses on illicit drug use

Fentanyl Citrate, a CLASS II Controlled Substance as classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency in the secure area of a local hospital Friday, July10, 2009. Joe Amon / The Denver Post

Ottawa Public Health (OPH), in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, The Royal, Ottawa Paramedic Service, Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Carleton Pharmacist Association and Respect Pharmacy, are launching a public awareness campaign to draw attention to the risks associated with illicit fentanyl.

The presence of illicit or bootleg fentanyl has been increasingly reported across Canada.

As Chair of the Board of Health, I cannot stress enough the heightened dangers that these products, which are already significantly more toxic than pharmaceutical grade opioids but are often mixed with other drugs, pose in relation to potential overdose.

In Ontario, illicit fentanyl has been detected in heroin, cocaine, crack, in counterfeit pills manufactured to resemble prescription opioids (i.e. Oxycontin, Percocet), and in other pills including ecstasy (MDMA). Recently found in Ottawa both mixed and standalone, the drug is produced and sold on the street and has a variety of names and formulations.

It is odourless and tasteless and can be hard to detect when mixed with other substances. Even a small amount of illicit fentanyl – the size of two grains of salt – can be fatal.

Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose related to an opioid such as fentanyl, heroin and morphine. Being able to quickly recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose and having a naloxone kit available can save a life while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

An overdose is a medical emergency. Anyone witnessing an overdose should call 9-1-1.

Ottawa Public Health and its partners are urging the public to seek out the following information from this new web resource: StopOverdoseOttawa.ca. The website provides information for people who use drugs, parents, friends and families of those at risk about:

  • fentanyl and other illicit drugs (carfentanil, W-18)
  • how to prevent, recognize and respond to an overdose
  • naloxone and where to get free take-home naloxone kits and training for yourself or your loved ones who might be at risk

Take-home naloxone kits and training are available free of charge from OPH’s Site Needle & Syringe Program, many local pharmacies, The Ottawa Hospital and other community agencies.

For more information on the campaign, please visit www.StopOverdoseOttawa.ca or call the OPH Information Line at 613-580-6744.