The Ottawa Hospital says six more people have been treated for potential opioid overdoses this weekend, following a spike in such cases earlier in the week and a warning from the city's public health agency.
As of 1:30 p.m. Sunday, there had been five new cases at the Civic Hospital in the last 48 hours and one case reported at the General Campus, a hospital spokeswoman told CBC News.
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) also confirmed the numbers reported by the hospital and said the cases were either life-threatening or potentially life-threatening.
The six new cases are in addition to the 15 cases that OPH recorded from April 18 to 20, which prompted a public service announcement warning residents about a "surge" in cases that some health officials suspect are linked to the deadly opioid fentanyl.
While the health unit is still waiting for toxicology results, OPH said in a statement this week that when there is a sudden increase in the number of emergency department visits in a short period of time, "there is always a possibility of counterfeit drugs being cut with opioids."
Patients required high doses of naloxone
Another cause for concern is that some of the patients required high doses of naloxone, an antidote that reverses the harmful — and potentially fatal — effects of an overdose.
Naloxone kits are available for free for members of the public at local pharmacies.
The city-run Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force monitors drug overdoses daily in the event that a sudden spike warrants a public warning.
Peter MacDougall, the Ottawa Hospital's director of pain medicine, said on Friday the latest spike could suggest an increased supply of fentanyl or even more potent carfentanil has made its way onto Ottawa's streets.
"When you hear [of] near-misses, you know that if it continues, at some point they're not going to be misses," MacDougall said.
"And I'm very worried that we will see an increase in tragedies around this."
Ottawa police confirmed Friday they are investigating the latest cases.