Health officials in Waterloo Region have released a community drug alert warning locals on the increased number of overdoses and drug poisonings, along with two suspected deaths.
The Drug Checking Program at the Kitchener Consumption and Treatment Services recently detected two fentanyl samples containing ketamine.
The statement was released on Nov. 15 as a result of 44 reported cases from Nov. 7 to Nov. 14.
The drug ketamine is an anesthetic and painkiller used primarily in veterinary surgery. It is a dissociative anesthetic that has some hallucinogenic effects, distorting perceptions of sight and sound, feeling disconnected, and not in control.
Abusing ketamine can lead to overdoses causing unconsciousness and dangerously slowed breathing, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
“The unregulated drug supply is unpredictable; substances may be stronger than expected and/or contain substances that cause unexpected reactions,” said Erica Poulin, coordinator for Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy (WRIDS).
She explains how the toxic nature of the unregulated supply is why continued support for harm reduction programs such as safer supply and drug checking services are imperative.
“This increases risk of more complex over overdose and drug poisoning events,” said Poulin.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but more potent. It is a prescription drug and is usually used to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery.
According to the Government of Canada, the risk of overdosing on fentanyl is extremely high and can be lethal. Life-threatening effects can occur within two minutes of use.
There is no new update about the two suspected deaths and further information has not been released beyond what was included in the alert.
Opioid-related deaths are monitored by the Waterloo Region Police Service and represent a proxy measure to understand the impact of opioids locally. The number reported reflects suspected deaths.
In 2022, related deaths were reaching 89 and this year the suspected deaths are at a total of 46 reports, according to WRIDS.
Kitchener Consumption and Treatment Services were not available for comments at this time. The CTS site is located at 150 Duke St. West Kitchener and is open seven days a week, including holidays.
The services available at the CTS are supervised consumption, safer substance use education, wound care, and harm reduction supplies.
Locals can also pick up naloxone kits which is a medication that can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids such as heroin, morphine, fentanyl, carfentanil, and codeine. Waterloo region has plenty of local support services for drug abuse including, Here24/7 helpline, support groups, addiction clinics, and more.