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Stats paint alarming picture of Sudbury's opioid crisis

EMS calls have surged 88 per cent in three years, worse months were last November and December 
Fentanyl Pills 1 2016
A report headed to the city's emergency services committee next month shows the opioid crisis (pictured are seized Fentanyl pills) in Greater Sudbury is getting worse – and fast. Fentanyl pills. (Police handout/North Bay Police Service)

A report headed to the city's emergency services committee next month shows the opioid crisis in Greater Sudbury is getting worse – and fast.

Not only have calls to paramedics to respond to an overdose grown by 88 per cent since 2015, the report says the two worst months on record were November and December 2018, when staff responded to 22 and 23 calls respectively.

“Some commonly prescribed opioids include codeine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine and oxycodone,” the report says. “Street opioids include any of the aforementioned opioids in their original or fake form, such as, street fentanyl and heroin. Fentanyl and Carfentanyl are some of the most potent opioids and both have been found in Ontario street drugs.”

The use of Naloxone, a medication which can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, is also increasing, particularly among the public. Only nine cases saw Naxolone used by non-EMS staff in 2017, but that surged to 70 last year, as public health officials tried to prevent the rising number of fatal overdoses by making the drug more widely available.

In raw numbers, there were 58 calls to Greater Sudbury paramedics in 2015 related to an opioid overdose; last year, there were 173. The number of calls rose by 14 per cent in 2016, and 40 per cent in 2017 and 88 per cent last year.

Paramedics are part of the Community Drug Strategy, a group made of several public organizations – including police and Public Health Sudbury – working to address the crisis. Statistics collected by paramedics tracking the number of calls are being used to issue community alerts when there's a spike in opioid overdoses.

The alerts have been issued twice – once in August 2018, when calls surged to 19, the highest since tracking overdose calls began – and again in December, when calls hit 23.

To help deal with the problem downtown, which has been particularly affected, this year Greater Sudbury Police are adding four more officers dedicated to partrolling the area.


Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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