Police warn public after 3 people die of suspected overdoses

Toronto police are warning the public about a suspicious drug after three people died in suspected overdoses this week.

Officers responded to four separate overdose calls in the area of Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue W. between Sunday and Tuesday, police said in a public safety alert issued on Wednesday.

Three of the people, all adults, died after ingesting the drug.

Police said the drug is suspected to be an opioid but it has not yet been identified.

"As the drug was consumed before police arrived, there is no description of it at this time," police said in the alert.

Police said investigators are concerned that more quantities of the drug may have been sold or given to others.

Drug supply 'toxic and contaminated,' expert says

Dr. Shovita Padhi, associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health, said in a statement on Thursday that the unregulated drug supply in the city is "toxic and contaminated."

The Toronto Drug Checking Service says the unregulated drug supply contains varying amounts of fentanyl, in combination with other opioids or depressants.

"When the drug supply is unpredictable and increasingly toxic, people who use drugs are more at risk of overdose because the drugs might be different or more potent than expected," Padhi said.

"We encourage people who use drugs to take safety precautions when using drugs from the unregulated drug supply: this includes getting their drugs checked so they know what they are using, not using alone and ensuring naloxone is on hand and using a supervised consumption site."

Hayley Thompson, manager of the Toronto Drug Checking Service, said the service has analyzed more than 800 fentanyl samples this year.

"In 2024, of all fentanyl samples that we've checked, not a single sample has contained only fentanyl, which we think points to the level of contamination in the supply. That means that not a single fentanyl sample met service users' expectations. Often they were contaminated with other central nervous system and respiratory depressants," Thompson said.

"Overall, it's just an incredibly unpredictable and volatile fentanyl supply we're looking at right now."

The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association held a session at UPEI where a pharmacist demonstrated how to use a naloxone kit.
Naxolone kits are shown here. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Zoë Dodd, co-organizer of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, said overdose deaths will continue to occur because the unregulated drug supply has not been addressed as an issue.

"We have been in a toxic drug death crisis for a decade now," Dodd said. "Every month, every day, something new is appearing in the drug supply that can potentially kill people, because we've never actually dealt with the issue of the toxic drug supply to begin with."

Dodd said it's important for people who use drugs to carry naxolone.

"I think people should always carry naloxone, have somebody to buddy up with when they're using. The reality is, the majority of people use alone in their own homes," Dodd said.

"There are people who need to use to get up to get to their jobs, and there are people who would just use alone because of stigma and discrimination."

In the alert, police reminded people, if they use drugs, not to use them alone and to use extreme caution.