Overdose deaths up in Montreal as 'dangerous substances and counterfeit pills' flood black market

Counterfeit medications (CTV News)

Deaths from drug overdoses are on the rise in Montreal.

Over the last six years, there have been 10 to 13 overdose deaths per month on the island. Now, it’s up to 15 to 17.

Experts say there have been more deaths because of drugs than COVID-19 among homeless residents.

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The rise in deaths could be because of disruptions to drug imports into Canada during the pandemic.

“The black market is very different than it was before COVID,” said Dr. Carole Morisette, a director of Montreal’s Public Health department.

“We see a lot of dangerous substances and counterfeit pills on the market.” 

In the summer, most overdoses were attributed to stimulants like crack, cocaine, and meth. 

Since then, the market has shifted towards opioids, including the dangerous drug fentanyl, which is like morphine but more potent. 

“The disruption of the drug supply coming from sources outside Canada has made it so that there are products out there that are simply not safe,” said Sam Watts, executive director of the Welcome Hall Mission, which provides aid to homeless and vulnerable people. 

INTERVENTIONS AT SAFE INJECTION SITES UP TO “ABOUT ONE A DAY.”

Montreal has four safe-injection sites, where people can go to get clean needles and use drugs under supervision. Even there, emergency situations are increasing.

“We normally have one intervention a week,” said Morrisette. “Now it’s about one a day.” 

Morissete said overdoses aren’t just up for homeless people, their up for everyone. 

9-1-1 calls are up from 10 to 13 per month. 

Montreal police and first responders are equipped with naloxone, a drug that can counter the effects of an opioid overdose.

Several community groups have been training volunteers to administer the life-saving drug since 2014. Today, up to half of all overdose cases are handled by those trainees, according to Morisette.

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