SUDBURY -- The Opioid Emergency Response Task Force in the Timmins area is alerting the public about an increase in deaths tied to purple heroin, as well as other substances containing opioids such as fentanyl.

The task force is warning "the public, people who use, and their friends and family, that powerful opioids and other toxic substances continue to be circulating in the area."

“While working within the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDEMS (Cochrane District Emergency Medical Services) has also responded to several suspected opioid overdoses that required resuscitation," Jean Carrière, paramedic chief, said in a news release.

"These situations are both tragic and preventable."

"You can’t see, smell or taste fentanyl, so you might not know if it’s been mixed into your drugs," said public health nurse Patrick Nowak.

"If you are using substances, reduce the risk of overdose by not using alone, having someone sober at the premises, avoiding mixing substances, testing a small amount first, and having a naloxone kit.”

Never use alone

Most overdose deaths happen when someone else can not intervene. The task force is encouraging people who use substances to:

• Never use alone or at the same time as someone else who uses with you.

• Connect with someone that could call for help if needed. People who use drugs can also call the Overdose Prevention Line 24/7 at 1-888-853-8542.

• Test a small amount first.

• Avoid mixing substances.

• Carry a naloxone kit.

If you suspect an overdose, call 911 immediately, administer naloxone if available, and wait for help to arrive. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides protection from arrest and breaches for simple possession.

People who use drugs, and their family and friends, should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of an overdose and how to provide first aid, including administering naloxone, the release said.

Free Naloxone kits are readily available throughout the area at Porcupine Health Unit offices and at many pharmacies. A list of sites is available here.

The Opioid Emergency Response Task Force are members of the Timmins and Area Drug Strategy who survey and report on data that may warrant response through public alerts, increased naloxone distribution, and information for people who use substances and their loved ones. 

Data is collected from area emergency departments, first responders and partner agencies. The Timmins and Area Drug Strategy is a collaboration with several key community partners in health and social service sectors working to comprehensively address opioid and substance use within our communities.