Opi­oid prob­lem ‘sad state of af­fairs’, forum hears

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL -

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

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

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