Drug crisis in Hay River spills over into RCMP detachment after man collapses in lobby

The entrance to Hay River Regional Health Centre on Jan. 24, 2023.  (Natalie Pressman/CBC - image credit)
The entrance to Hay River Regional Health Centre on Jan. 24, 2023. (Natalie Pressman/CBC - image credit)

A man who went to the RCMP detachment in Hay River, N.W.T., on Tuesday had to be given naloxone after he lost consciousness in the lobby and showed signs of an opioid overdose.

In a news release Wednesday, the RCMP said its members gave him naloxone — a drug that temporarily halts the effects of opioid overdoses — and called emergency services. Paramedics gave him more naloxone and took him to the hospital, where he regained consciousness.

The man told them he had taken magic mushrooms (psilocybin), but RCMP say they may have been contaminated with fentanyl or carfentanyl.

"This is the first time we have heard of fentanyl-laced psilocybin in the N.W.T. or elsewhere," Insp. Dean Riou with the RCMP said in an email. "And of course, we are taking the man's word that he did not knowingly ingest something more harmful."

Police said the incident "highlights the dangers of ingesting any drugs, as there appears to be a variety of drugs in the N.W.T. that have been contaminated with opioids recently."

Officials in the territory have been sounding the alarm about a surge in drug poisonings in Hay River, where the deaths of at least six people were connected to opioids in 2022.

In December, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer warned that carfentanyl and fentanyl had been found in cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana.

The issue has led to new community support programs and an elders group to help tackle addiction.

Riou said that anyone using drugs should take care not to use alone, have naloxone available and know how to use it, and be aware of the signs of an overdose.

Symptoms of an opioid overdose include slowed or slurred speech, pinpoint pupils, loss of consciousness and shallow breathing.

The RCMP said drug users should not use drugs alone, and should have a naloxone kit on-hand.

In Hay River, nalaxone kits are available at the Hay River Regional Health Centre, Public Health and Ring's Pharmacy.

On the K'atl'odeeche First Nation Reserve, nalaxone kits can be picked up at the Judith Fabian Elders Centre.