Martin C. Barry
While maintaining that the City of Laval isn’t facing an imminent opioid abuse crisis, officials responsible for public safety have decided to make a well-known antidote medication widely available as a treatment for opioid overdoses.
The Laval Police held a media briefing on June 4 at their headquarters in conjunction with Urgences-Santé to explain the deployment of 64 kits containing naloxone, which can be used to reverse the deadly side effects of fentanyl overdoses.
Fentanyl’s fatal potency
The action is being taken as the powerful painkilling opioid fentanyl increasingly makes headlines. One hundred times more powerful than morphine, and forty times more powerful than heroin, fentanyl is often being used by illicit dealers of narcotics to strengthen or dilute their offerings – although many users often have no idea that what they are taking can easily be fatally potent.
As Laval city councillor and executive-committee member for public safety Sandra Desmeules explained during the press conference, Fentanyl has proven itself to be highly useful when used properly under medical supervision. However, she added, in 2016 alone, more than 20,000 U.S. residents died from fentanyl overdoses.
Spreading in Canada
“The distribution of this illicit drug is starting to spread here in Canada, more specifically in British Columbia,” said Desmeules. “Fentanyl, which was first and foremost supposed to treat chronic pain, is now found on our streets. This opioid of rare strength is used among other things by drug producers to cut heroin and cocaine. So you can understand how this can become a fatal cocktail.”
According to Desmeules, at least four individuals died from fentanyl overdoses in Laval in 2017. In addition, the Laval Police made a number of seizures of fentanyl on Laval’s territory. However, she insisted, “I want to assure the population that the City of Laval is not undergoing an opioid crisis. We are currently in prevention mode for the well-being of the population.
Equipped with naloxone
“This is the reason why we have signed an agreement with the Corporation Urgences-Santé to supply our policemen and policewomen from the Laval Police Department with naloxone,” added Desmeules. “Naloxone is the most efficient antidote against fentanyl.
“It allows lives to be saved when a person is in an overdose situation. The presence of opioids on our territory is a major preoccupation, as you no doubt are aware. This is why it is primordial for the Laval administration to have the necessary tools in order to react adequately in crisis situations.”
As part of the program, 30 kits containing naloxone is various administration forms are being placed in Laval Police patrol vehicles, while others are being distributed to police investigators and to local police precincts. Urgences-Santé has trained Laval Police officers in the method for administering naloxone.
A new occupational hazard
At the same time, the police are also being trained in protective measures (including gloves, goggles and coveralls) to protect themselves from fentanyl contamination. There have been a number of reported incidents in the U.S. and elsewhere in which police responding to crime scenes where raw fentanyl was found fell ill after being exposed unprotected to relatively small quantities of fentanyl dust.
As Laval Police Chief Pierre Brochet pointed out, one of the hazards involved with illicit fentanyl is that it comes in various forms that can make it very difficult to detect. These include powders, sprays, blotter paper, granules, tablets or pasted on the back of stamps. He also noted that the old cliché about a drug dealer sticking his finger in a bag of white powder and taking a lick to check if it’s real no longer applies, since just a few grains of fentanyl will kill an adult.