Opioid problem ‘sad state of affairs’, forum hears
A public forum at Mohawk College Thursday night heard about the growing crisis of opioid use in Hamilton.
Linda Blake-Evans, manager of the city’s harm reduction program in the health department, said the most recent data shows 47 people died from opiate deaths in Hamilton in 2015.
“Forty-seven deaths. That’s huge. People aren’t dying of AIDS anymore. They’re dying from this,” Blake-Evans said.
“There have been more opioid-related deaths in the Hamilton LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) over a five-year period than anywhere else in the province,” she said.
“It’s a sad state of affairs,” Blake-Evans added, noting the health department is stepping up its efforts to monitor the situation and fully expects further grim fatality numbers for 2016 when the figures are made available from the province.
The public forum on fentanyl and carfentanil at Mohawk College’s McIntyre Centre hosted by the Hamilton Addiction and Mental Health Collaborative also featured a poignant video of several opioid users from the area talking about their personal battles with addiction.
Some talked about how their opioid dependency stemmed from medically prescribed drugs to manage pain.
“It’s a beautiful feeling in the beginning,” said one woman who had managed to stay clean for 16 days.
Another said, “Once you’ve done fentanyl, nothing touches it. Nothing comes close.”
Several of the users interviewed in the video from the addiction and mental health collaborative talked about knowing people, and in some cases witnessing people, overdosing.
Det. Const. Adam Brown of the Hamilton Police Service’s vice and drugs unit said both bootleg fentanyl and carfentanil — which are 1,000 and 10,000 times stronger than morphine, respectively — have been showing up in Hamilton in many forms.
Fentanyl has been found mixed with heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, and morphine as well as caffeine.
Usually, the drugs are pressed into pills but police have also seen it in other forms including liquid in an eye dropper.
Most of the illegal opioids coming to the city are made in China and much of it is being bought online, Brown said.
Forty-seven deaths. That’s huge. LINDA BLAKE-EVANS MANAGER OF THE CITY’S HARM REDUCTION PROGRAM
Debbie Bang, manager of addiction services at St Joseph’s Healthcare, speaks about the affects of opiates on the brain during a public forum Thursday discussing fentanyl and carfentanil.