'Noticeable increase' in overdoses in Saint John prompts police warning

·3 min read
A safe supply of opioids is one way overdose deaths can be prevented, activists say. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)
A safe supply of opioids is one way overdose deaths can be prevented, activists say. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)

Saint John police are seeing a "noticeable increase" in drug overdose calls this year, and especially last week.

In a news release, the force said 18 overdoses were reported from April 23 to 30 of this year. The week prior, there were six calls.

"Although this represents a small sample size, it may also be indicative that a more potent or dangerous substance is currently circulating in the community," the news release says.

Eight of the 18 overdoses last week are suspected to have been caused by fentanyl, an extremely potent opioid that's made its way to the street supply of drugs in the city.

The force said its seen a 30 per cent increase in overdose calls in the first four months of 2022, compared to the same months in 2021.

This is not the first time the Saint John police have warned the public about opioids. On April 7 the force said carfentanil was involved in two recent sudden deaths. Carfentanil is estimated to be about 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

Finding solution falls on 'not just police'

The release said homelessness, poverty, mental health and addiction are significant problems in the city.

"They are complex social issues that require solutions from many stakeholders, not just the police," the news release said.

The Community Action Group created by police Chief Robert Bruce is hosting a roundtable discussion about this issue this month, the release said.

Harms reductions activists have been calling for a safer drug supply to prevent the increasing number of preventable overdose deaths.

Last week, Julie Dingwell, executive director of Avenue B, said people who struggling with addiction are at risk of death because of the lack of a safe drug supply and the criminalization of drug consumption.

She and other activists have been saying a solution exists: make it possible and legal to prescribe safe opioids for people either diagnosed or undiagnosed with substance use disorder. Decriminalization of drug consumption would also make people more willing to get help.

According to Health Canada, 26,600 people died of opioid toxicity in the last five years. And in the first year of the pandemic, there was a 95 per cent increase in those deaths, with the number staying steady.

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