Thunder Bay

'Completely toxic': fentanyl continues to challenge first responders in Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay police say illicit, fentanyl-based drugs continue to pose a major problem for vulnerable people and first responders in the city.

Police issued public safety alert over Pink Down narcotic after two overdose deaths last week

A file photo close-up of fentanyl tablet split in half with powder showing. Police in Thunder Bay said they've responded to several overdose calls - including two deaths - over the last week. (CBC)

Thunder Bay police say illicit, fentanyl-based drugs continue to pose a major problem for vulnerable people and first responders in the city.

Police on Friday issued a public safety alert over the arrival of a fentanyl-based, pink-coloured narcotic referred to as Pink Down, or Pink Dizzy, after the drug led to two overdose deaths in two days, Thunder Bay police Det. Insp. John Fennell said.

In one of those cases, multiple doses of Naloxone were administered, but didn't reverse the effects and the individual passed away.

Fennell said Pink Down's resistance to Naloxone is likely due to how strong it is

The deaths, and the strength of the drug, led police to issue the public safety alert about Pink Down on Friday.

"We know that vulnerable people are not going to just stop taking drugs because we put out an alert," Fennell said. "What our hope is, is to make sure that if they are going to do it, to at least take some sort of precaution."

"Use it in the safest manner that they can, or at least have somebody there that can … assist if there is a medical emergency."

Fennell said reports about Pink Down have dropped since the alert was issued.

"Maybe [the alert] has worked, or they have done something to it to reduce its strength," Fennell said.

However, illicit drugs remain a big problem in Thunder Bay, with police responding to six overdoses during the long weekend; four of those individuals required hospitalization, Fennell said.

Fennell said police continue to investigate Pink Down, and haven't yet arrested anyone trafficking in it.

"We're trying to determine how it came into the city," he said.

'Should absolutely be worried'

And there's a concern that more may arrive in Thunder Bay.

"It's never-ending," Fennell said. "We, as a police agency and a community, should absolutely be worried about it."

"It's unregulated, so the dealers don't care what you're putting into your system, they only care about making money," he said. "And each one of them, as they sell it, wants to make a little more money out of it, so as such, they put some type of cut, as we would call it, into it, whether it be prescription drugs, some type of powder, to be able to make it a greater volume."

The combination of drugs, or the strength of the fentanyl, could lead to medical emergencies, Fennell said.

"The problem with the new drugs is they're synthetically made, so therefore anybody can make them," he said. "It's not like the older days … when there was a natural component to it. Now, they're straight synthetic."

"That type of chemical goes into the body, heaven knows how it's going to react," Fennell said. "Some people become very violent, and some people become very quiet and subdued."

Toxic chemicals

Fennell said first responders and community agencies are working to combat the spread of illicit drugs in the city.

But despite the efforts, Fennell said "it doesn't seem to be slowing down, it only seems to be gaining momentum."

"All I can say is that if you have a loved one that you see taking these things, it is extremely dangerous," he said. "It is completely toxic what they're putting in their bodies and unfortunately, if they continue to use it, they will pass away from the abuse of it."

"The best thing to do is try to find them the help."