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Opioid “epidemic” running rife in Orangeville

June 16, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

The Orangeville Police Service (OPS) paired up with several community partners to present a special public information session on opioid drug overdoses on Tuesday (June 13), with Scott Davis, the force’s communications officer advising that the “epidemic” that has hit many urban centres across the continent has arrived in Orangeville.

Close to 30 individuals were in attendance at the meeting, held at Westside Secondary School, which featured presentations from Cst. Davis, Kristy Fearon, Addiction Outreach Counsellor with Family Transition Place, and Paul dePrinse, Deputy Chief of the Dufferin County Paramedic Service. All three clearly stated that opioid drug abuse was quickly becoming one of the biggest issues in the region.

“This is the first in a series of community presentations the Orangeville Police Service plans to hold in an attempt to educate people about the dangers of opioid drugs. This is something that has been presented as an epidemic all over Canada. I would say it is an epidemic right here in Orangeville,” Cst. Davis said. “The sad reality is that we’re losing people in our community. Unfortunately, we have had deaths right here in Orangeville.”

Deputy Chief dePrinse told how Dufferin County paramedics responded to 10 calls directly related to fentanyl overdoses in January and February of this year alone. In two of those cases, people lost their lives.

“This is a scary, scary drug,” Deputy Chief dePrinse said. “Opioids don’t care who you are, they come in many forms and they are a very dangerous, potent drug. Opioids can and will kill you.”

Mr. dePrinse pointed out that even the smallest amount of fentanyl similar to a pinch of salt is enough to kill somebody. He says fentanyl is between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine.

Opioids are synthetic drugs that interact with receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain, often used and prescribed by doctors as pain relievers for numerous ailments. Alongside legalized prescription drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine, other drugs such as fentanyl and heroin also fall within the opioid spectrum.

A recent report from the Public Health Agency of Canada says that at least 2,458 Canadians have died from apparent opioid-related overdoses in 2016 – a number that directly equates to seven people dying each day from opioid use.

There is, however, a drug that can be used to save someone’s life should they be suffering from an opioid. Narcan, or naxolone as it is otherwise known, is available at most pharmacies and can be administered to help reduce the effects of an overdose. According to Mr. dePrinse, Narcan is effective for between 30 and 90 minutes, so it is important to call for immediate emergency assistance.

Speaking out at the meeting, local resident Brigitte Krause shared the heartbreaking story of how she lost her 24-year-old son to a fentanyl overdose last September. She traced his longstanding addiction to pain medication he was prescribed following the removal of his wisdom teeth. It became worse after he sustained nerve damage in his leg following a car crash some years later.

“This was something my son battled for a while, it was horrible watching the effects opioids had on his life,” Ms. Krause said. “He wasn’t your stereotypical drug abuser, he was a sweet boy with a big heart.”

And that seems to be the message Cst. Davis is trying to press home in the community – that opioid abuse is rampant amongst people of all ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds in the community.

“This is something that is readily available should someone wish to try and secure it. … It arrives in the mail, it is now being cut into other drugs, it’s being laced into marijuana… It’s out there in the community,” Cst. Davis said.

And that is why it is so important to educate. Just last week, Cst. Davis, Deputy Chief dePrinse and Ms. Fearon led presentations to high school students at both Orangeville District Secondary School and Westside. In September, similar presentations will take place at several area elementary schools.

“We are committed to helping solve this problem. It would be a little naive to think it’s going to just go away,” Cst. Davis said. “We want people to be more aware that there are issues so that they can take care of themselves and their families. … That can only be done through education. We can inform people and let them know what their best choices and options are. We just have to hope they make the best choices then moving forward based on the information they know.”

While the local police force is leading the charge against this latest epidemic to hit the region, Cst. Davis fears its efforts will be fruitless unless more people in the community step up and realize this is a problem we are currently experiencing right here at home.

“People believe that Orangeville is immune from these type of things and that’s a sad way to think about things in my opinion. Until more people, not only in our community but in other communities too, step up and live up to the reality of the situation we’re facing, I don’t think we’re fully going to see a change – not until more people take this seriously and realize how big an issue this is.”

         

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