Over the last ten days, there were five suspected overdose deaths in Waterloo Region, according to Integrated Drugs Strategy, a regional body working on prevention and harm reduction.
Julian Ichim, a local activist and a person who uses drugs, says that since COVID-19, substances on the street have become much deadlier.
“We’ve been seeing that there’s been a decrease in the ‘quality’ of product, particularly among opiates. We’ve seen an increase in overdoses and an increase in products cut with benzodiazepines, which causes memory loss as well as blacking out,” Ichim says.
This year has broken all the records in overdoses in Waterloo Region. By Nov. 3, there were 78 suspected overdose deaths in the region. That’s 15 more than for the entire last year.
COVID-19 is the main reason behind the spike because of the increased use of fentanyl to cut other drugs, says Joanna Han, coordinator of the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy.
“We’re in kind of a dual pandemic. We have the COVID-19 but we also have the overdose crisis,” Han says.
Waterloo Region has recently opened a permanent Safe Injection Site at 150 Duke Street. The Regional Police and the Integrated Drugs Strategy are advising people who use drugs to have Naloxone with them and to call the police if they witness someone overdosing.
The Good Samaritan Act protects a rescuer from any liability should they attempt to help a victim in distress.