Police investigate suspected fatal overdose in east end
Burlington man, 44, dead at scene; 23-year-old local woman taken to hospital
A 44-year-old Burlington man has died of a suspected drug overdose in Hamilton’s east end.
Police were called to 61 Dalkeith Ave., which is off Ottawa Street North, just before 10 p.m. Monday to find the man without vital signs. They also found a 23-yearold Hamilton woman who was unresponsive.
The man was pronounced dead, but paramedics took the woman to hospital in stable condition.
“At this time it is believed that drug activity has played a key role in this incident,” police media officer Const. Jerome Stewart said in a press release Tuesday. But Stewart said the “exact cause of death is still to be determined.”
He declined to provide more information.
Opioid abuse and overdoses have been a growing problem in Hamilton and across Canada, reaching epidemic proportions.
Fentanyl, a powerful pain medication that can be acquired in bootleg form, is seen as the main culprit.
Public Health Ontario says the number of opioid-related deaths in the province has increased 99 per cent since 2003, with more than 700 dying in 2015.
As of July 31 this year, Hamilton paramedics have responded to 192 calls for opioid overdoses. July saw a seven-month high of 39 calls, compared to a low of 20 in May.
Dave Donais, south supervisor for Hamilton Paramedic Service, describes using street drugs as a crap shoot.
“The big problem of all the drugs is that people are mixing all this stuff in so they don’t know what they’re getting.”
For example, in March the city issued an alert pointing to reports of a drug called “takeover” or “dirty fentanyl.” The crack-laced opioid was reportedly causing “immediate and dangerous loss of consciousness.”
Last week, the Middlesex-London Health Unit warned urine drug screening tests had detected fentanyl in people who reported smoking marijuana.
Donais, who has been a paramedic in Hamilton for 30 years, said he has watched drug-related calls spike in the past five years.
Overdoses don’t necessarily discriminate according to Hamilton’s geography, he said.
“I see as many drug overdoses on the Mountain and Ancaster and places like that as what you see in the lower city.”
But socioeconomics matter when it comes to whether patients survive, Donais said: Where people are more educated, particularly in CPR, there are fewer fatalities.
“Not as many people die of drug overdoses because there are more (responsible) people around them.”
Users have a greater chance of dying if they’re alone, even if friends revive them using naloxone, an opioid antidote available in kits, Donais said.
Once they part company, the temporary antidote wears off and the drug kicks in again.
“He goes from being unconscious to stop breathing,” Donais said. “And that’s why people are dying.”
Denise Brooks, executive director of Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre, agrees impoverished users run greater risks. “They are alone unless they are forming those relationships with each other.”
It’s important users know what to do in emergencies, Brooks said.
“That person who’s with the person who’s overdosing needs to be the person who knows what to do.”
Early last week, a nurse practitioner at Urban Core, which is downtown at 71 Rebecca St., came to an overdose victim’s aid in the centre’s parking lot, Brooks said.
“That happens frequently here.”