Hamilton overdoses surging, 29 people OD in just 10 days

Hamilton is seeing a steep rise in 911 calls for suspected overdoses, the city is warning.

City also warning of fentanyl-laced meth circulating in Hamilton

Opioid overdose 911 calls rose steeply in Hamilton at the start of this month. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Hamilton is seeing a steep rise in 911 calls for suspected overdoses.

Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 10, public health officials announced in a press release on Friday, people called 911 for suspected opioid overdoses 29 times.

That's compared to 40 overdose calls in the entire month of August.

Opioid-related deaths are increasing each year in Hamilton. There were 52 opioid deaths in Hamilton last year — a death rate 48 per cent higher than the provincial average.

The city says other data used in Hamilton's recently-developed opioid information system isn't demonstrating a similar pattern, but the city and local hospitals are working to figure out exactly what's going on.

"There are likely many contributing factors to the current increase in paramedic events including that more people are calling 9-1-1 when experiencing symptoms of opioid overdose due to increased awareness of the Good Samaritan Overdose Act," the city said in a news release.

Former opioid addict Nicole and Debbie Bang, the manager of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Womankind addiction service, explain prescription painkiller addiction. 3:57

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act came into effect this year in Canada, and applies to anyone seeking emergency support during an overdose, including the person experiencing an overdose.

The act protects people who are violating things like parole or probation orders, and who could be facing simple possession charges, who once would have been afraid to call for help.

The city says that as a precaution, public health is increasing access to naloxone (which acts as a sort of antidote during an overdose), and adding more service hours to The Van needle syringe program.

Public health is also warning that the city is getting reports about fentanyl-laced methamphetamine that's circulating on the streets.

Since January of this year, public health has responded to 264 calls related to opioid overdoses.

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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