SAULT STE. MARIE -- Police in Sault Ste. Marie say they suspect opioids might be behind a recent increase in overdose-related calls in the area.

Between May 28 and June 11, both the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service and Ontario Provincial Police say they've dealt with numerous of overdose-calls; seven of those ending in death.

"The investigation is still ongoing, but officers do suspect opioids were involved," said Lincoln Louttit, Sault Police spokesperson.

Sault police say symptoms of an opioid overdose can be drowsiness, trouble breathing, walking or talking and clammy, cold skin.

"I can't really speak to the fact whether or not it's a bad batch of narcotics coming into the community, but we just want to make sure that people are cognizant of what's happening here," Loutitt said. "They need to remember if they do choose to use illicit substances, you can't be sure what is in them."

Algoma Public Health

Algoma Public Health says the increase in overdoses is concerning for the community.

According to a public health nurse, tackling addiction starts with education.

"There's a common misconception that we in the district don't have the supports necessary to help out," said Allison McFarlane. "In fact, they do exist and I think just knowing where to go is the key."

McFarlane says the COVID-19 pandemic has forced some services to alter how they deliver help, but remain up and running.

"There's still a stigma that exists out there, where addicts are seen as criminals," she said. "Substance use does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone, so we really need to change that conversation and try and help people instead of blame people for what's happening." 

For a list of resources and other harm reduction tips, McFarlane says to visit Algoma Public Health's website.