Agencies in northern Ontario are issuing drug warnings as opioid overdoses are on the rise and a new, dangerous drug has been spotted in the area.
Both Algoma Public Health and paramedics in Sault Ste. Marie say there's been a rise in opioid-related emergency calls. This comes as North Bay police uncovered a new variant of fentanyl called ‘green fentanyl’ over the weekend.
"This is very new -- I worked this weekend on the road and this is the first time we've seen it,” said North Bay Police Sgt. Arron Northrup. “Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine."
Over the weekend, city police responded to several drug overdoses. Officers also arrested two people in relation to an unrelated incident. From there, police found suspected green fentanyl in their possession.
Emergency responders at risk
“It's putting ambulance paramedics at risk," said Northrup. "It's putting police officers at risk. It's putting firemen at risk … When we're going as a first responder to help these people, just a little speck of fentanyl can be deadly."
The drug is just normal fentanyl but is dyed a different colour. In the past, police have seized blue and purple fentanyl. Officials said dealers have the drug dyed to market the drug. It’s a concern for the drug strategy committee.
"Is there something else mixed in with the fentanyl?” wondered Pat Cliché, chair of the Community Drug Strategy Committee North Bay & Area. “We won't know completely what's in that fentanyl until it comes back from analysis."
The drug strategy committee is currently drafting what they call a community alert system that would warn the public about new illicit drugs in the area and what to look out for.
“It doesn't just tell you about the drug and what the drug is, but it has advice if you overdose,” said Cliche “We'll send it out to all of our stakeholders in our community."
As for the fight against the opioid crisis, police say they’re doing everything they can to get the drugs off of the streets and out of the neighbourhoods.
"I don't know if there ever is a solution,” said Northrup. “Our drug people are working hard and we've caught a few people, but it just keeps coming."
Officials are stressing to everyone not to use any type of drug they are unfamiliar with and only use what's prescribed by your family doctor.
Meanwhile, police say they are in support of the community alert system, saying it can help warn the public about dangerous substances.