Toronto Public Health is warning the public after 10 people died of a suspected opioid overdose last week. 

A July 22 drug alert issued by Toronto Public Health (TPH) indicated that these deaths occurred between July 17 and July 21.

So far this month, Toronto paramedics have have reported a total of 21 overdose-related fatalities.

“There appears to be a potential increase in deaths due to smoking opioids and stimulants,” TPH said in the alert, adding drug inhalation equipment, notably pipes, were present on scene in a number of the overdose deaths.

The health unit said a range of drugs were involved in this recent increase in fatal overdoses, which happened across the city.

Fentanyl does, however, continue to turn up in the local drug supply in a variety of colours “with unpredictable potency and contamination,” they said.

That assertion is supported by Toronto’s Drug Checking Service, which has recently found higher amounts of fentanyl present in expected fentanyl substances as well as “potential evidence” of crack cocaine being contaminated with fentanyl.

“A sample submitted as used crack cocaine equipment was found to contain cocaine, fentanyl, and caffeine; this equipment was reported not to have been reused,” TPH said.

Public health is urging people to try to not use drugs alone and use a supervised consumption service, if possible. Anyone who must use alone is being advised to have a safety plan in place and have someone check on them either by phone, in person, or even virtually.

Further, people who use drugs are being urged to vet their supply, ask others about what they are experiencing with the same drug or batch, determine what other substances could be in their drugs with the help of the local drug checking service, and get naloxone, which is available at Toronto Public Health’s The Works site at 277 Victoria St. and through several partner organizations. Free kits can also be obtained at some pharmacies or by calling 1-800-565-8603.

The Ontario Coroner’s Office found those who died from “smoking opioids” represented 30 per cent of Toronto’s 164 accidental opioid toxicity deaths between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. All of these “opioid toxicity deaths” had evidence of smoking drugs and represented a 43 per cent increase in the proportion of overall overdose fatalities in Toronto compared to 2019 and a 178 per cent spike in overdose deaths with only evidence of pipe or foil present.

Last October, the City’s Drug Strategy Secretariat issued an alert following an increase in overdose deaths where drug inhalation equipment was used.

Supervised consumption sites in Ontario are currently not available to individuals who choose to consume drugs by inhalation as the 2017 Smoke-Free Ontario Act prohibits smoking or vaping in enclosed public places and other designated places throughout the province.