Fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine has been making the rounds across the region.

In January, six overdoses in four days has spurred a growing concern among officials monitoring drug use across our area. Looking for ways to combat the drug from the ground up, the Overdose Monitoring Alert Response System (OMARS) has been set up.

Several of the overdoses involved heroin and at least one involved Fentanyl. But officials are worried that the substances involved in all of these overdoses were laced with bootleg Fentanyl.

Fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs. “The difficulty with identifying Fentanyl is that sometimes it’s presented as another drug. We believe we are dealing with heroin and Fentanyl could be a part of that. There’s no way to know without being tested,” says Waterloo Regional Police Staff Sgt. Shirley Hilton.

Sometimes used to treat people with chronic or severe pain, Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic. Street names for the drug include Apache, China white, dance fever, goodfella, TNT and Murder 8.  

Like heroin and morphine, Fentanyl works by binding the body’s opiate receptors. Opiates control pain and emotions in highly concentrated areas of the brain.   

Following a number of Fentanyl overdoses in Western Canada, OMARS was put into the planning stages.

Paul Gregory of the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs strategy says: “It’s to get the word out, for people that are working with people who are using drugs and people who are using drugs recreationally. But also to get the word out on to people on the front lines.”

Now up and running, OMARS not only involves first responders, but several community partners. Saguine Health Centre, Waterloo Regional Police Services and the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council are all on board with the system.

Officials hope that through OMARS they will be able to monitor Fentanyl use in the community. They also hope to receive overdose alerts and have more people trained to use anti- overdose kits.