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(Posted 2:30 a.m., March 1)
Public Health, OPS issue joint alert over fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills

By Fred Sherwin
The Orléans Star

After dominating the headlines in B.C. and especially Vancouver for the past 12 months, fentanyl has finally arrived in Ottawa, and with it the potential for drug overdoses and even death for anyone who uses the highly lethal drug.

Fentanyl, which is used in the production of counterfeit opioid pills, has claimed more than 900 lives in Canada since the beginning of 2016, including the recent deaths of two Kanata teenagers.

Chloe Kotval, 15, died of an overdose on Valentine’s Day after ingesting counterfeit Percocet pills laced with fentanyl.

Teslin Russell, 18, died of a similar overdose on Dec. 30. Although police have not yet received her toxicology report, they believe she was the victim of fentanyl laced counterfeit pills as well.

The two teenagers are the first fentanyl related death in Ottawa. Police and public health officials fear there will be many others in the weeks and months to come.

To help limit the number of potential overdoses, Ottawa Public Health and the
Ottawa Police Service have launched a public awareness campaign in partnership with the local school boards.

A joint alert on the potential risk of overdoses from counterfeit prescription pills was issued by Ottawa Public Health and the Ottawa Police Service on Feb. 13. In the alert the two agencies warn that counterfeit prescription pills may contain Fentanyl and that the drug “significantly increases the risk of overdose” and “is fatal in very small amounts.”

They also recommend that parents with teenage children, and teenage users of counterfeit prescription pills purchase a naloxone kit from their local pharmacy.

Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an over- dose related to an opioid such as fentanyl, heroin and morphine.

Take-home naloxone kits and training are available free of charge from the Ottawa Public Health Needle & Syringe Program, many local pharmacies, the Ottawa Hospital and other community agencies.

The joint alert comes on the heels of a public awareness release issued by the Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force (OPRTF) in November in which Royal Ottawa Hospital president and CEO George Weber tries to put the risks from Fentanyl in perspective.

“It’s a massive issue of grave concern because many don’t even realize they are consuming this deadly drug.” said Weber. “We are very pleased to be part of this important campaign to help protect the most vulnerable youth and adults who are counting on us.”

Parents can get more information about the dangers of counterfeit presrcription drugs at StopOverdoseOttawa.ca.

The website also provides information about Carfentanil, which is an opioid used by veterinarians for very large animals like elephants. It is approximately 100 times more toxic than fentanyl and 10,000 times more toxic than morphine.

Like fentanyl, carfentanil is being used by illicit drug makers as an additive in the production of counterfeit prescription pills. The problem with both drugs is that you can’t see them, taste them or smell them.

In 2015, 48 Ottawa residents died from an unintentional drug overdose: 29 of the deaths were due to opioids. Fentanyl was involved in 14 of them.

According to the 2015 Drug Use Among Ontario Students Survey con-ducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 15 per cent of the respondents in Grade 12 admitted to non-medicinal use of prescription drugs, while 13 per cent said they used prescription and non-prescription opioid painkillers. For students in Grade 7 to Grade 12 the figure is 10 per cent, or an estimated 95,000 students province-wide.

Ottawa Public Health is encouraging parents to discuss the dangers of non-prescription opioid use with their teenage children and to stress the potential that counterfeit pills may contain either fentanyl or carfentanil and even a small dose may be fatal.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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Posted Jan. 12



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