The Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) is issuing a public safety alert. Through the Opioid Surveillance and Early Warning System, an increase in suspected opioid overdoses has been identified in Timmins.

The Opioid Emergency Response Task Force has received information from outreach services and partners that in addition to fentanyl and carfentanil, benzodiazepines may be present within illicit substances, mainly in opioids.

When someone overdoses on opioids and either mixes use with benzodiazepines or if benzodiazepines are unknowingly in the substance, the person may not wake up after the administration of naloxone despite the breathing returning. This may be due to the sedative effects of the benzodiazepine in or used with the substance.

“Naloxone can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose”, says Dr. Lianne Catton, the Porcupine Health Unit’s Medical Officer of Health, “if benzodiazepines are mixed with an illicit substance and an opioid overdose occurs, the concern is that Naloxone may wear off prior to the person waking up, increasing the risk of someone returning to an overdose state without others knowing. Calling 911 is essential.”

“If you are using substances, reduce the risk of overdose by not using alone, having someone sober at the premises, avoiding mixing substances, testing a small amount first, and having a naloxone kit”, says Patrick Nowak, Public Health Nurse. People who use drugs and their family and friends should be familiar with the signs of symptoms of overdose and how to provide first aid.

If you suspect an overdose, call 911 immediately, administer naloxone if available, and wait for help to arrive. The Good Samaritan Act provides protection from arrest and breaches for simple possession.

Free Naloxone kits are readily available throughout the area at Porcupine Health Unit offices and at many pharmacies. A list of sites is available at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/get-naloxone-kits-free.

The Timmins and Area Drug Strategy is a collaboration with several key community partners in health and social service sectors working to comprehensively address opioid and substance use within our communities.

The Opioid Emergency Response Task Force are members of the Timmins and Area Drug Strategy who collect and monitor data that may warrant response through public alerts, increased naloxone
distribution, and information for people who use substances and their loved ones. Data is collected from area emergency departments, first responders and partner agencies.

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