Discussing Durham’s opioid crisis

Each year in Durham Region, on average there are five-eight homicides, 20-21 motor vehicle collision fatalities and 25 opioid fatalities.

From 2016-2018, there was a significant increase in overdose deaths, which is correlated with the rise of fentanyl in Durham Region.

DRPS Drug Enforcement officers, Detective Constables Scot Green and Nicholas Baldini, presented a policing perspective on harm reduction at the recent Durham Region Harm Reduction Conference. Held at Deer Creek Golf and Banquet Facility in Ajax, this year’s theme was Reducing Stigma: the Hidden Crisis.

Officers have seen a wide variety of prescription drugs being frequently abused, including oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine, as well as heroin and carfentanil.

The introduction of oxycodone and morphine has led to the opioid crisis, D/Cst. Green explained.

“There is a stigma attached to opioid use,” D/Cst. Baldini said. “It is a thriving enterprise and it is a big problem.”

In September 2017, Pickering Fire responded to a carbon monoxide alarm at a home in Pickering when they noticed a suspicious substance in the basement. The Drug Enforcement
Unit was called in and they obtained a search warrant for the residence.

DRPS seized 33 guns and 42 kilograms of carfentanil (yellow, white and pink) with a street value of $12.6 million, estimated at $300 per gram. This equates to approximately 419,620 potentially lethal doses with a lethal dose estimated at 0.1 grams.

Carfentanil or carfentanyl is a synthetic opioid similar to fentanyl but 100 times more potent. This narcotic is marketed as a tranquilizer for large animals.

D/Cst. Green said there is a blatant disregard for human life by the people involved in trafficking drugs. Not only did this massive drug seizure potentially save numerous lives, but there was a family living in the Pickering home that could have been severely harmed.

Those investigations which lead to larger drug seizures directly affect the prevention of deaths, he added.

There are other forms of harm aside from drug use, D/Cst. Green added. A person’s drug habit can cost around $300 per day because of its high price. To support this habit, a drug user can resort to criminal activity, like prostitution, break and entering, robberies, theft and drug trafficking.

With low-level drug trafficking, the people involved know they’re selling drugs that can kill and will continue selling to support their own habit.

“It also speaks to the desperation of people trying to support their habit,” D/Cst. Green said.

Naloxone is carried by DRPS officers and is available when responding to overdose calls. It is available to the public at local pharmacies.

Agencies throughout Durham Region continue to work together to battle the opioid crisis and find solutions to this growing problem.

If you are concerned a friend or family member is using drugs, or suspect drug use in your area, contact the DRP’s non-emergency number at 1-888-579-1520.

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