OPP saves 210 people from opioid overdose death since 2017; but naloxone no help with substances laced with benzodiazepines

ORILLIA — The Ontario Provincial Police say they have saved the lives of 210 people from opioid overdoses since officers were first equipped with the medication naloxone in 2017.

Naloxone is used to rapidly but temporarily reverse the effects of opioids like fentanyl, heroin, morphine, or hydrocodone, and it often means the difference between life and death in overdose situations. 

The opioid crisis continues to affect people from communities across Ontario, which is evident from the continued increase in opioid-related overdoses as well as the number of occurrences where officers have had to administer Naloxone to save a life.

“At the core of our response to the opioid crisis is the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. If you witness someone experiencing an overdose, please dial 9-1-1 and if you can, stay with the victim to provide support. You could make a difference and save a life,” said Superintendent Bryan MacKillop, Director of the OPP’s Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau.

“People from every age group and every socioeconomic background continue to be affected by opioids in Ontario,” said OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique, similarly noting the protections the Act provides to those witnessing an overdose and calling for help.

And while naloxone has proved effective at saving lives, Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has recently warned of opioids that have been cut with benzodiazepines — powerful tranquilizers for which the popular antidote is no help. In his Feb. 16 media briefing, Dr. Roumeliotis explained that the illegal street-drug market has reacted to a tighter opioid supply — possibly related to pandemic border closures  — by lacing benzodiazepines and other substances into the final product. “That’s where we’re having problems,” said the doctor, acknowledging an increase in overdoses in his jurisdiction.

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