Teens who went into medical distress at Milton home likely ingested an opioid, police say

Police in Halton Region say they believe two teens who went unconscious after smoking cannabis at a Milton home on Wednesday afternoon also ingested some type of opioid.

Emergency crews were called around 2 p.m. Wednesday and found 2 teens unconscious outside

Staff Sgt. Chris Lawson was one of three Halton police officers who administered naloxone to two teens who had fallen unconscious after smoking what they thought was cannabis Wednesday afternoon. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

Police in Halton Region say they believe two teens who went unconscious after smoking cannabis at a Milton home on Wednesday afternoon also ingested some type of opioid.

Emergency crews were called to the home shortly after 2 p.m. for reports that two young men were in medical distress.

When officers arrived, they found two teens on the home's back deck. They were unconscious, their breathing was shallow, their pupils were dilated and they were frothing at the mouth, Staff Sgt. Chris Lawson, one of the first people to arrive at the scene, told reporters at Halton Regional Police headquarters in Oakville Thursday morning.

These were all signs the teens were suffering from an opioid overdose, he said.

Lawson and two other officers administered naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdoses, to the teens via a nasal spray. One showed signs of recovery almost immediately, Lawson said, while the other teen required a second dose.

"Certainly you're always nervous because somebody's life is at risk," Lawson told CBC Toronto. "But we knew it was the right thing to do. Your adrenaline is pumping and your heart's pounding."

Both teens were taken to hospital for treatment and released the same day. But Const. Chris Peters, another of the officers to arrive at the scene first, said the teens' conditions were "pretty bad."

"Had we come five [or] 10 minutes later, it would have been much worse. That's my feeling."

From left to right: Staff Sgt. Chris Lawson, Const. Chris Peters and Const. Amanda Allsop were lauded for their quick thinking when they found the two teens in medical distress. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

It appears the teens, both 18, were among a group of 10 to 12 who were at the home Wednesday afternoon, and had stepped outside to smoke what they thought was cannabis.

Insp. Kevin Maher said police are "operating under the assumption" that an opioid was present in the teens' bloodstreams, largely because the teens' conditions improved so quickly after they received naloxone, which only has that kind of effect when opioids are present.

Police are still trying to find a viable sample to send to Health Canada laboratories, which can determine exactly what opioid was present in the youths and whether they consumed the opioid with the cannabis or if it was ingested separately, Maher said.

What will be harder to determine, he added, is the drug's source. If police can pin down where it came from and if it was added to the marijuana, criminal charges could result, he said.

Halton police officers have been carrying naloxone for about a year, according to Maher. It was the first time Lawson had to administer it, but officers with the force have done so about 20 times over the last year, Maher said.

For Lawson, the situation hit home as a dad of teenagers. In this situation he was glad a neighbour saw the boys in distress in the backyard and called 911.

'Are they just fooling around?'

Annissa Adams was in her house when she heard a commotion coming from outside a nearby home. She looked out the window and saw a group of teens outside, including two convulsing on the ground.

Annissa Adams called 911 when she saw two boys convulsing on the back deck of a nearby home Wednesday afternoon. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Her partner and her mother told her not to get involved. 

"Something told me that no, these are someone's kids, I need to call the police," Adams told CBC Toronto.

She yelled over to the teens to find out what was happening and they said they would call the police, she said.

But something didn't feel right, so she called herself.

"It's really easy to do the easy thing, which is look away or not get involved, like I was told to do," she said. "But I've always made a choice, and I'm teaching my kids that, 'You know what? Sometimes the hard thing is the right thing and that's what you need to do.'"

Adams will receive an official commendation sometime in the near future, Maher said.

In the meantime, Maher praised the three officers for quickly recognizing what they were dealing with and maintaining their composure.

"It is heroic and their composure is very commendable," he said.