40 overdoses recorded in one week, says WRIDS
The Waterloo Region Integrated Drug Strategy (WRIDS) is sounding the alarm after a significant number of drug overdose and poisonings were reported over the last week.
According to WRIDS, Between May 31 and June 5, there were 40 overdose and poisoning cases reported.
"You know, it's alarming for us," said Chief of Paramedic Services John Riches. "We're concerned about it and we're worried about the public and obviously want to make sure that people are safe and healthy."
When asked, WRIDS said it was unable to confirm if any of the 40 overdoses/drug poisonings mentioned in the alert were fatal.
As of Sunday, officials haven’t been able to determine if there is a tainted drug supply in the community.
"It was important enough for public health and paramedic services and all our partners on the drug strategy to get the alert out there because we wanted residents to be aware of the concern and to do things to protect themselves,” said Riches.
According the Region of Waterloo Public Health and Paramedic Services, there have been 544 opioid overdose and drug poisoning–related calls in Waterloo region this year, with a suspected 29 opioid-related deaths.
"Every community is grappling with making sure that their residents that are struggling with drug addiction are being supported,” Riches said. “It's not unique to the Region of Waterloo but certainly very concerning for the Region of Waterloo."
A University of Waterloo professor in the School of Public Health Sciences doesn’t believe the recent rise in cases qualifies as a drug crisis in the region but says the spike could foreshadow more difficult days ahead for those relying on unregulated drug supply.
"If you see a trend of increase in cases, then you can say ‘yes it's more than before and we need to see what's happening’, so more investigation is definitely needed as to the causes," said Zahid Butt.
Riches says the alert is one way officials are doing everything they can to save lives.
"We do worry about people's overall health when they are addicted to a substance and that's why the Region of Waterloo and our partners…really want to make sure that we provide supportive care when necessary and also help people get access to preventative care," Riches said.
The last time WRIDS issued a community drug alert was on Apr. 6 and there have been three alerts issued so far this year. Officials are hoping to remind those in need the Consumption and Treatment Services site at 150 Duke St. West is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.