Quebec coroner's office warns about unusually high number of drug-related deaths

Twenty-three people died in connection with street drugs over July, the highest number recorded since 2014.

Twenty-three deaths over the month of July linked to street drugs, but fentanyl not the main culprit

In July, 23 deaths were linked to street drugs, with almost half of those deaths occurring during one eight-day period. (CBC)

The Quebec coroner's office is sounding the alarm about a significant increase in severe overdoses and deaths in the Montreal area.

In July, 23 deaths were linked to street drugs, with almost half of those deaths occurring during one eight-day period.

This is the highest number of deaths recorded in one month since 2014, said the coroner's office.

Dr. Carole Morissette, medical director at the regional health board, called the situation "incredible."

"We have to follow the situation very carefully," she said.

The increase of overdoses particularly affects men aged 20 to 59. Many died at home in areas outside downtown Montreal, according to the office.

The drugs linked with the deaths were mainly stimulants, like cocaine or amphetamines. The increased temperature — last month was the hottest July in almost a century — can also increase the risk of sudden death for those who overdose on stimulants, said Morissette.

Only five of the deaths were associated with opioids, with one death possibly linked to fentanyl.

She said that the use of naloxone, an antidote to opioids, could be behind the comparatively low number of fentanyl-related deaths, but public health is still monitoring the fentanyl situation closely in Montreal. 

She says it is important that drug users not be left alone, so that someone can call 911 immediately, or administer an antidote, like naloxone.

The office is calling on health-care workers and community organizations to take more preventative measures to prevent more deaths.

Public health is also asking emergency room doctors to take a urine sample if they see cases of overdose, to give public health a better sense of what street drugs actually contain, said Morissette.

With files from Brennan Neill


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