PEI

Fentanyl ODs on P.E.I. were cocaine, heroin users

There have been two new drug overdoses linked to fentanyl in the past week on P.E.I.

Health officials say 2 new overdoses linked to fentanyl in past week

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison says five recent fentanyl overdose cases on P.E.I. were related to cocaine and heroin use. (Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press)

There have been two new drug overdoses linked to fentanyl in the past week on P.E.I.

That brings the toll of fentanyl-related overdoses in recent weeks to five, according to P.E.I.'s chief public health officer. The victims were all using either heroin or cocaine that contained the powerful — and sometimes deadly — opioid, fentanyl.

Dr. Heather Morrison shared details of the five overdoses Tuesday, during a live-streamed media conference on the coronavirus pandemic. It's the second time in recent weeks the province's top health official has talked about fentanyl during the pandemic.

Morrison issued a public health alert on May 8, due to three overdoses in one day being linked to fentanyl.

"The purpose was to protect Islanders who might be consuming illicit drugs which is why I'm mentioning it again," said Morrison, "whether or not an overdose resulted in an ER presentation or a death."

'We've had five cases since May 5,' says Dr. Heather Morrison 1:20

Four of the five recent fentanyl overdoses involved use of heroin; and three of the five involved cocaine, according to Morrison. 

Two victims were in their 20s, and three were in their 30s. Three were men and two were women.

Health officials continue to decline confirmation of any deaths linked to the recent fentanyl overdoses. That has generated criticism that Islanders are being denied important information. Health officials cite privacy laws, given the province's small size, for declining to confirm deaths in the short term.

The province does report overdose deaths on a quarterly basis, for use in national record-keeping and in efforts to reduce risk.

"It is based on when a coroner's report is confirmed and submitted to our office," said Morrison. Health officials say coroners' reports can take 12 to 18 months to complete.

Morrison said the recent fentanyl overdoses did not occur in any one location on P.E.I.

Police are equipped with personal protective equipment and an antidote that can be used to save lives of overdose victims or first responders who are accidentally exposed.

Queens RCMP reported Tuesday they had not used the fentanyl precautions in recent weeks.

"I would like to highlight the collaboration with police and public safety and community groups in terms of our overdoses," said Morrison during Tuesday's briefing.

Morrison warned Islanders taking any street drugs in pill or powder form to take precautions, including carrying the antidote drug naloxone.

More than 700 naloxone kits have been handed out to those at high risk on P.E.I. since June 2017. At least two dozen were used and saved the lives of those who had overdosed.

More from CBC P.E.I.

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Brian Higgins

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Brian Higgins shoots video and reports news on Prince Edward Island.

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