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Algoma Public Health issues alert about new drug circulating in Toronto

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Algoma Public Health is warning the public about a new drug that has been identified in the Toronto area.

The health unit is also drawing attention to a spike in drug toxicity in Ontario, particularly in the city of Belleville, which has declared a state of emergency due to the number of overdose-related hospitalizations.

Hilary Cutler, a program manager with Algoma Public Health, said a pair of drugs have been found in substances containing opioids, although the drugs themselves are not classified as opioids.

“Medatomidine and dexmedatomidine are anesthetic drugs,” Cutler said.

“They’re not opioids, so using naloxone won’t work in this situation. However, we do always recommend using naloxone because opioids that might be present in somebody’s body, naloxone would work on that in the case of an overdose or drug poisoning.”

Cutler said the drugs on their own can lead to loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing and can cause heart rate and blood pressure to drop significantly. People could be taking the substances unknowingly.

“They’ve been added to the unregulated drug supply and a lot of people are purchasing or receiving drugs thinking that they are something else when, in fact, it could be contaminated with these substances,” said Cutler.

This comes on the heels of a Sault Ste. Marie Police Service investigation into an overdose death last year that led to a manslaughter charge against someone accused of giving fentanyl to the victim.

“I think the message to the public is, if you know or love someone who has become victim to an overdose, tell the police what you know about how they came in possession of the substance that killed them,” said Insp. Jason Rains.

“It’s about time,” said Connie Raynor-Elliott, founder of addiction support Save Our Young Adults (SOYA,) reacting to the criminal charge.

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“You’ve got to be held accountable. I’m really pleased with this and I’d like to see it happen more. And maybe people might start thinking twice before they want to make that easy buck, and meanwhile, our kids are dying.”

Officials said there’s no indication that the new drugs have made their way into northern Ontario. 

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