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Drug suspected of irreversible overdose confirmed in two local deaths

Trace amounts of the drug ‘etizolam’ have been confirmed in two local overdose deaths since the spring of 2019, and its increased presence in the region has been suspected in recent weeks.

Etizolam has been reported in the Hastings Prince Edward region by Belleville Police Services. Hastings Prince Edward Health said the drug, which is often cut or mixed with other opioids, may contribute to irreversible overdose.

“While Naloxone can temporarily reverse the effects of overdose caused by some opioids, etizolam is incredibly dangerous as it does not respond to Naloxone. If an individual shows signs and symptoms of an opioid related overdose, and does not respond to Naloxone,” said Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health. “It is possible that the overdose is being caused or contributed to by etizolam.”

“While it takes some time for data to be collected confirming cause of overdose, and many overdoses have multiple causes, we strongly suspect that etizolam has contributed to recent overdoses in the region” said Oglaza. “With this drug in the community, people who use drugs need to know that Naloxone may not reverse an overdose – and if overdose is suspected, people should still administer Naloxone, but be sure to call 911 right away.”

“No one who is experiencing an overdose or helping at the scene can be charged with simple possession,” he said. “The Good Samaritan Act protects anyone who calls 911 for themselves or another person suffering an overdose, as well as anyone who is at the scene when emergency help arrives.”

Signs of an overdose may include:
Won’t wake up easily or at all
Breathing is very slow, erratic or not at all
Fingernails and/or lips turn blue
Body is limp
Deep snoring or gurgling
Pin point pupils
Vomiting

Hastings Prince Edward Public (HPEPH) continues to work with community partners to address the opioid crisis. Recently, HPEPH released a report which included recommendations to address the situation locally. In the coming weeks, HPEPH will be working with local partners to identify specific actions that can be taken to address this crisis in the region.

Filed Under: Local News

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