10 drug-related visits to emergency department in just one day, says Windsor-Essex health unit

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) issued an alert under its "surveillance and monitoring system" Friday, after identifying an increase in drug-related visits — all on Nov. 14.

According to the alert, healthcare service providers under the WECHU umbrella saw 10 cases of drug-related emergency department visits in a 24-hour period.

Two cases are considered opioid-related. The drug responsible for another case is unknown, but "believed" to involve opioids. Two other cases are said to involve methamphetamine, the health unit said.

One of the cases, the health unit added, resulted from the individual ingesting something described as a "purple substance."

On two occasions, EMS administered naloxone, according to the health unit.

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When asked what exactly is contributing to this increase, WECHU's medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said "that's the million dollar question."

"We're trying to gather information to see if there is anything in particular to prevent some of the substance abuse cases in the community," he said. "We're trying to put it all together and try and make some sense out of it."

The health unit said it doesn't have the exact location of where these 10 cases originated — but most of them are in Windsor.

"Almost all of these cases are from the two hospitals," said Ahmed, adding that one of the most challenging factors in directly addressing the problem is that cases involving a "combination of many substances" are showing up in regional emergency departments.

"It ranges from opioid, all the way to some of the accidental overdose with something as simple as Tylenol or alcohol," he said. "Right now, it's everywhere — and we're trying to make some sense out of it."

When asked if any of these 10 cases resulted in deaths, Ahmed said none had been brought to his attention.

Amy Dodge/CBC

"What we are experiencing in our community is not unique to what some of the other communities have already seen, with respect to the opioid crisis," said Ahmed.

He added the solution to addressing this uptick goes beyond just having residents keep naloxone in their homes or on their person.

"It's much more complicated than that. The real message right now is for the people who are using these substances ... to be aware of any potential new product on the market — maybe a new supplier in the market," said Ahmed.

"Not all these cases are a result of opioids, so we have to be careful because that's not the only thing we're dealing with."

The alert issued by WECHU is the third of its kind. The health unit previously issued alerts on Nov. 1 and Nov. 6.