Police in northwestern Ontario are warning communities about an uptick in the presence of fentanyl in local street drugs.

The Treaty Three Police Service says members are concerned about the increasing reports of fentanyl use in the region, which can be found in various forms – including powder, pills or laced into other drugs.

Fentanyl is roughly 100 times more potent than morphine and 40 times more potent than heroin. A lethal dose of pure fentanyl is as little as two milligrams. That’s the equivalent of 32 grains of table salt.

Police say that drug dealers add illegally obtained fentanyl to other drugs they sell – like cocaine and counterfeit oxycodone tablets – as a cutting agent to increase their profits. That activity is increasing the number of overdoses and deaths across Canada.

A report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows that youth aged 15 – 24, and adults aged 25 – 44 have the fastest-growing opioid poisoning rates. Studies also show that two Ontarians die every day from a fentanyl overdose.

Symptoms of fentanyl exposure can include:

- Difficulty walking, talking or staying awake,
- Blue lips or nails,
- Very small pupils,
- Cold and clammy skin,
- Dizziness and confusion,
- Extreme drowsiness,
- Choking, gurgling or snoring sounds,
- Inability to wake up, even when shaken or shouted at,
- Slow, weak or not breathing.

Police are urging the public to immediately report an overdose, and to call 911.

You can also administer Naloxone if you are trained to do so, which can block or reverse the effects of opioid medication, including extreme drowsiness, slowed breathing or a loss of consciousness. Naloxone is available at Northwestern Health Unit offices and pharmacies.

Canada’s Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act also protects people who call police for help during an overdose against certain criminal charges, including drug possession and bail violations.

Police add if unknown substances are found, members of the public are asked to take necessary precautions in handling the substance, including wearing gloves and a mask. You may also call police for assistance.

Anyone having information about the trafficking of drugs should immediately contact the OPP at 1-888-310-112 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).