'Thunder Bay loves its cocaine': Paramedics issue public warning after recent spike in opiate-related calls
Ryan Ross said one patient was unconscious and had to be resuscitated after cocaine use
Paramedics in Thunder Bay, Ont. say they have noticed a troubling trend in the recent weeks and have issued their own public warning after a spat of bad reactions to cocaine, which they believe could have "been cut with a dangerous opioid."
"Last week we had three instances with the same [paramedic] crew, three different days, three different locations [and] three different kinds of people that had been using cocaine, recreationally, and were having adverse reactions not related or not like cocaine use," Ryan Ross said.
Ross, who is a paramedic with the Superior North Association of Professional Paramedics, said one patient had to be given a Naloxone Hydrochloride Injection (Narcan) as they were "unconscious with no respiratory effort."
"We've been dealing with the opiate issue for quite awhile," Ross said, "[and] the Thunder Bay District Health Unit just put a brief out [and] I didn't realize that the statistics were actually as bad as they are, but our opiate calls have been trending upwards quite sharply."
Paramedics and police in southern Ontario and out west have been dealing with the pervasiveness of Fentanyl and other street drugs for some time now, according to Ross, so it was only a matter of time before it hit Thunder Bay as well.
We have no illusions that Thunder Bay is going to stop doing drugs.- Ryan Ross, Paramedic
"Cocaine and opiates like heroin are not commonly associated with each other," Ross explained, "Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine in some cases ... and cocaine users don't have any built up tolerance, so they are hit that much harder when they do take one."
Preparing for a dangerous summer
Cocaine is known to be a social drug that is most commonly used at parties, Ross said and as the season changes to summer, he's worried about the safety of recreational drug users and teenagers who are more susceptible to dangerous substances like Fentanyl.
"A lot of times if it's a bar scene people are in the bathroom by themselves using [cocaine] [because] it's not super socially acceptable yet," Ross said, "so we are worried people are going to be using this drug and are going to have this adverse reaction" and won't have anybody around to help them.
He said paramedics have the resources available and are trained to deal with overdoses, however they need people to call EMS and notify them if they want any help.
"Thunder Bay loves its cocaine [and] it's been an issue here for a long time," Ross said, "but this is a national and provincial issue, not just Thunder Bay."
With Fentanyl searches and seizures happening every other week, Ross said it's unrealistic to believe that Thunder Bay will become a drug-free city so it's up to paramedics to educate the public.
"We just advise people [and] people need to be aware that this is now a risk," Ross said, "we don't condone drug use, but we realize that people are going to use drugs so if you are going to do it, be a little bit more cautious."
He recommends people pick up a free Naloxone kit and have it with them in case of any emergency.