The Ottawa Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force (OPRTF) is alerting the public about an increase in suspected drug overdose-related emergency department visits in Ottawa in the last 72 hours – with 15 life-threatening or potentially life-threatening suspected cases reported over that time period (April 18 to April 20).
The OPRTF monitors suspected drug overdose-related emergency department data daily to be able to appropriately respond should a sharp increase of overdose-related emergency department visits occur in the community.
An overdose is a medical emergency. Anyone who suspects or witnesses an overdose should immediately call 9-1-1, even if naloxone has been given.
In February 2017, Ottawa Public Health and Ottawa Police Service issued an Alert of Potential Risk of Overdose from Counterfeit Prescription Pills in Ottawa being involved with life-threatening overdoses and deaths.
Although the OPRTF cannot confirm that these overdoses are related to intentional or counterfeit opioid-use, when a sudden increase in the number and severity of suspect drug-related emergency department visits is observed during a short period of time, there is always a possibility of counterfeit drugs being cut with opioids.
Residents are reminded of the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose:
- Breathing will be slow or gone
- Lips and nails are blue
- Person is not moving
- Person may be choking
- You can hear gurgling sounds or snoring
- Person can’t be woken up
- Skin feels cold and clammy
- Pupils are tiny
Residents who use drugs, or their loved ones, are advised of the ways to reduce their risk of overdose:
- Avoid using drugs alone
- Avoid mixing drugs or combining with alcohol
- Use a small amount first to test strength
- Use less drug(s) when tolerance may be lower (change in health status or weight, recent release from prison, treatment program or hospital)
Getting drugs from a non-medical source such as a friend, ordering online, or a drug dealer is very risky and potentially life-threatening. There is no way to know what is actually in them or how toxic they may be. Drugs should only be purchased or obtained from a local pharmacy or a registered medical professional.
To help police find the sources of counterfeit pills, it is important to report this information to police. You can call Crime Stoppers and report anonymously. Submit an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), texting CRIMES (274637), keyword “tip252”. You can also download the Ottawa Police Service app for iOS or Android.
Naloxone can buy time while paramedics are en route. You can get a take-home naloxone kit for free from pharmacies and other agencies in Ottawa. To find a participating pharmacy near you check this list of pharmacies that have naloxonee. For more about overdoses and how to prevent them, visit StopOverdoseOttawa.ca.
Members of the Ottawa Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force, include Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa Paramedic Services, Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Fire Services, OC Transpo, The Ottawa Hospital, The Royal Ottawa Hospital, Montfort Hospital, Queensway Carleton Hospital, The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Rideauwood Addictions and Family Services, The Office of the Regional Coroner, Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres, Respect Pharmacy, Champlain Local Health Intergration Network, Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre, Ottawa Carleton Pharmacist Association, Direction de santé publique, Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais.
For more information:
The Ottawa Hospital
Ottawa Police Service
613-236-1222 ext. 5860