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Public Health Alert – Drug Causing Irreversible Overdoses Present in Quinte Region

Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/November 13, 2019 – The presence of etizolam has been reported in the Hastings Prince Edward region by Belleville Police Services. This drug, which is often cut or mixed with other opioids, may contribute to irreversible overdose. Trace amounts of etizolam were confirmed in two local overdose deaths since the spring of 2019, and an increased presence of the drug has been suspected in recent weeks.

While Naloxone can temporarily reverse the effects of overdose caused by some opioids, etizolam is incredibly dangerous as it does not respond to Naloxone. If an individual shows signs and symptoms of an opioid related overdose, and does not respond to Naloxone, it is possible that the overdose is being caused or contributed to by etizolam.

If an individual is experiencing an overdose, bystanders are urged to call 911 immediately. Getting the individual to the hospital quickly may save their life.

Residents are reminded that no one who is experiencing an overdose or helping at the scene can be charged with simple possession. The Good Samaritan Act protects anyone who calls 911 for themselves or another person suffering an overdose, as well as anyone who is at the scene when emergency help arrives.

Signs of an overdose may include: 

  • Won’t wake up easily or at all
  • Breathing is very slow, erratic or not at all
  • Fingernails and/or lips turn blue
  • Body is limp
  • Deep snoring or gurgling
  • Pin point pupils
  • Vomiting

“While it takes some time for data to be collected confirming cause of overdose, and many overdoses have multiple causes, we strongly suspect that etizolam has contributed to recent overdoses in the region” says Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health. “With this drug in the community, people who use drugs need to know that Naloxone may not reverse an overdose – and if overdose is suspected, they should still administer Naloxone, but be sure to call 911 right away”.

Hastings Prince Edward Public (HPEPH) continues to work with community partners to address the opioid crisis. Recently, HPEPH released a report which included recommendations to address the situation locally. In the coming weeks, HPEPH will be working with local partners to identify specific actions that can be taken to address this crisis in our region.

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Media Contact:
Emily Tubbs
613-966-5500 x 464 or 613-848-4944
etubbs@hpeph.ca

About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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