New figures about the presence of fentanyl in London, including a spike in the number of opioid-related deaths late last year, have caught the attention of local agencies and organizations on the front lines of the opioid crisis. Information from multiple datasets and the recent warning by London Police that new forms of fentanyl may have arrived in the region, are prompting heightened concern from the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) and its partners. The Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario recently reported that nine opioid-related deaths occurred in the London region last November and December.
The MLHU has worked with the London Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police, London Health Sciences Centre, Middlesex-London Emergency Medical Services, the Regional Coroner’s Office and several other partners in monitoring opioid-related trends through surveillance data. The information that has been gathered over the last several months seems to paint a troubling picture.
“Several data sources are showing what appears to be a steadily increasing presence of fentanyl in our community,” says Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health and CEO at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “What this information tells us is that there is likely more of this substance on our streets and that it is being made available in new and different forms that we haven’t seen before.”
That fentanyl may be mixed with other drugs without users being aware of it, is also raising alarm bells; further underscoring the need for those who use these substances to exercise caution to prevent opioid related injuries and overdose. Naloxone kits are available through the Health Unit and through local pharmacies for people who use opioids, as well as for the friends and family of those who use. The kits contain Naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid-related overdose, potentially saving a life and making it possible to receive urgent medical care. The Health Unit also recommends that people who use opioid drugs not do so alone.
“I am deeply concerned about the increase in deaths as the data is showing and, anecdotally, what appears to be an increase in fentanyl-related overdoses that our officers are responding to,” says London Police Chief John Pare. “Starting this week, Naloxone kits are being distributed to all of our officers so they will be able to provide immediate assistance if exposed to fentanyl or to provide immediate assistance to someone who has overdosed.”
For more information about how to prevent opioid-related overdoses as well as the signs and symptoms that someone may be in distress, visit: www.healthunit.com/prevent-overdose.
Dan Flaherty, Communications Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit,
519-663-5317 extension 2469 or 519-617-0570 (cell)
Cst. Michelle Romano, Relief Media Relations Officer, London Police Service, 519-661-5410
Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health / CEO, Middlesex-London Health Unit