Health Canada confirmed last week that a Sarnia Police drug seizure thought to be heroin was actually fentanyl powder – the first seizure of its kind in the city.
Fentanyl powder is an extremely potent synthetic opioid used to make pharmaceutical prescription drugs for the treatment of pain.
It is about 40 times more potent than heroin, and as little as six grains of the powder can be lethal if ingested. It is equally deadly to emergency workers who accidentally handle or inhale it.
Sergeant John Pearce of Sarnia Police Services said not all frontline police and fire responders are yet equipped with the anti-overdose drug naloxone.
Naloxone is a one-time-use injection or nasal spray used to stop a fentanyl overdose.
Anyone can visit Lambton Public Health to obtain a naloxone kit — you don’t even need a health card.
“You can get a naloxone kit in Ontario for everyone, except emergency services personnel,” Pearce said.
Pearce said accidental ingestion is a concern for police, fire and EMS personnel attending a drug overdose scene.
Fentanyl powder is much more potent than the fentanyl patches used on the street. Opioid and fentanyl-linked overdoses killed 2,458 Canadians last year. In November alone, one fire station in Vancouver’s lower east side attended 1,600 opioid overdose calls.
Pearce said the British Columbia and Manitoba governments are providing naloxone to its first responders, but Ontario has yet to act.
Lambton County has made naloxone standard issue on all EMS ambulances, but only about 20 kits have been made available to the 126 uniformed Sarnia Police officers, purchased through an emergency police budget at a cost of $120 each.
Sarnia has joined a growing list of municipalities grappling with the arrival of fentanyl powder and the challenges it presents.
“We need to do better and we need to go further,” Pearce said
“I suspect that it’s only going to get worse and we have to prepare for that.”
On April 6, city vice offers executed a search warrant at a home in the 800 block of Exmouth Street and seized $11,000 in cash and quantities of crystal methamphetamines, cocaine and what was believed to be heroin at the time. It has since been confirmed as fentanyl.
Five people were arrested and charged with various drug-related related offences.