Paramedics responded to nearly 200 suspected overdose calls over civic holiday long weekend
Published Friday, August 6, 2021 9:35AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 6, 2021 9:38AM EDT
Toronto Public Health has issued a warning after paramedics responded to nearly 200 suspected opioid overdose-related calls over the Civic Holiday long weekend.
Toronto Public Health says that paramedics responded to a total of 172 opioid overdose calls between July 30 and August 3, including a record 51 calls on July 30. That is the highest number in any 24-hour period since record keeping began in 2017.
“While specific details are not yet known, there appears to be a range of substances from the unregulated drug supply involved. Toronto's drug checking service has reported finding unexpected, highly potent drugs in samples checked from the unregulated drug supply in recent months, including "ultra potent" opioids (such as carfentanil, etonitazene, and isotonitazene) and etizolam (a benzodiazepine-related drug),” Toronto Public Health said in the warning.
Toronto Public Health said that there were no fatal overdose calls over the long weekend.
The warning, however, comes at a time when overdose calls appear to be on the rise amid an increase in more potent opioids in the drug supply.
Last week, Toronto police issued a warning of their own about a spike in overdose calls in 53 Division, including four deaths.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore also addressed the crisis during a briefing with reporters last month in which he confirmed that he had formed a small task force to look at the issue.
“We need to double down on all we're doing from an addictions mental health vantage point, to opioid agonist therapies to Naloxone to consumption and treatment sites to enhance rapid access addiction medicine clinics and harnessing primary care emergency medicine to be able to provide for the needs of these patients,” he said. “I am very aware of its devastation to families at a very deep and personal level, and I just want to assure you I will be fully committed to responding to this threat on an ongoing basis once we can get COVID under control and we've started working on that strategically within my office already.”
In June, which is the most recent month in which there is complete data, Toronto paramedics responded to 448 non-fatal overdose calls and 24 fatal overdose calls. That is a significant spike compared to June, 2020 when paramedics responded to 202 non-fatal overdose calls and 13 fatal overdose calls.