Drug alerts in Toronto and Waterloo

Oct 13, 2023

Earlier in September, the Waterloo Region Integrated Drug Strategy issued a community drug alert after 31 suspected overdoses and drug poisonings over the span of four days, which were recorded between Aug. 31 and Sept. 3. Moreover, preliminary data on the region’s integrated drug strategy website demonstrates that there have been 41 suspected opioid deaths in 2023 in the Waterloo Region.

Similarly, an alert warning was also issued by Toronto’s public health unit following a spike in opioid-related overdose deaths in the city since Aug. 31.

According to Toronto Public Health (TPH), there were 11 suspected opioid-related overdoes which occurred between Aug. 31 and Sept. 6, corresponding to the double of the weekly average for the city. A statement released by TPH also highlighted recent reports of red and green fentanyl linked to overdoses occurring in the community and at supervised consumption sites. In addition, a media release from Toronto Public Health stated that the city’s drug-checking service has been detecting other highly potent opioids and benzodiazepines in samples which were expected to be fentanyl.

“Toronto’s Drug Checking Service continues to find other highly potent opioids and benzodiazepine-related drugs in samples expected to be fentanyl. Overdoses are occurring in a variety of neighbourhoods across the city. Toronto Public Health monitors overdose calls attended by Toronto Paramedics Services. The increase in the number of fatal suspected opioid overdose calls triggered alert thresholds,” states a news release issued by the Toronto Public Health.

 Currently, Toronto is experiencing a drug toxicity crisis, with data provided by the city demonstrating a 100% increase in opioid-related deaths between 2019 and 2021 in the city. “All levels of government must continue to work together with action and investment in the face of this urgent public health issue,” said Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow in a news release.

 Furthermore, recently released data from the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network at Unity Health Toronto demonstrates that opioid-related deaths among teens and young adults in Ontario tripled from 2014 to 2021. In contrast, drug treatment rates significantly decreased in the province, with the use of medications to treat opioid use disorder decreased by 50%, while in-person residential treatment decreased by 73%.

Toronto Public Health advised individuals not to take drugs alone, to have a drug-use safety plan in place, and to keep naloxone on hand, as well as to access supervised consumption services.