Five suspected opioid overdose deaths in Waterloo Region since Friday; three in Guelph

There have been five suspected opioid overdose deaths in Waterloo Region and three in Guelph since Friday, prompting alerts from public health officials.

In Waterloo Region, the Overdose Monitoring and Response System (OMARS) issued an overdose alert warning on Tuesday in the wake of a recent spike in overdose deaths since Sept. 3.

"The unregulated drug supply is inconsistent and dangerous and there is an increased risk of overdose," reads a statement posted on the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy website.

There are no reports of a specific colour of substance circulating, but substances may be stronger than expected or contain other substances that cause unexpected reactions, the overdose alert states.

Overdose Alert in #WaterlooRegion.

5 suspected opioid OD deaths in #WR since September 3rd.

Dangerous drugs continue to circulate locally causing an increased risk of overdose.

Be careful and stay safe, the CTS is open on 150 Duke St. West ��

— WRIDS (@DrugStrategyWR) September 7, 2021

The Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy also issued an alert on Tuesday, stating there were three suspected overdose deaths in Guelph over the long weekend.

WGDS said there have also been five suspected overdoses reported in the last five days.

They said substances circulating in the Guelph area may be stronger than usual.

"Strong fentanyl has been indicated in the three deaths, but please be aware that any circulating substance may pose significant risk to your health," the alert states.

Wednesday afternoon, health officials in Grey Bruce also sent out an opioid alert after eight non-fatal overdoses in recent days.

"What we are seeing is a cluster of unprevented poisoning deaths," said Michael Parkinson with the Waterloo Crime Prevention Council. "People don't know what they are taking, they don't intend to die, but that is the outcome."

He said the opioid crisis is "rife with systemic discrimination," adding there's "a real absence of the sort of leadership that we've come to se in the COVID response."

Jaimie Farrell, whose Zion died four years ago at the age of 14 from a fentanyl overdose after taking what he thought was just Xanax, agrees more needs to be done to address the crisis.

"A lot of people are discouraged. They want help, but they go to get the help and it's mediocre," she said. "Overdose happens to people of all walks of life, addiction is all walks of life."

The Kitchener Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) site at 150 Duke St. West is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Waterloo Region residents can call 519-575-4400 to receive a free Naloxone kit from public health.