TORONTO — Ontario Provincial Police are joining the fight to educate the public about the dangers of fentanyl, which has been linked to more than 500 deaths in the province over the past five years.
The force is releasing public service announcements and says it will post or link content to its Facebook and Twitter accounts in an effort to make the public aware of the threats posed by fentanyl and similar opioids.
Fentanyl is legal when prescribed by a doctor for chronic pain management, and is roughly 100 times more potent than morphine and about 40 times stronger than heroin.
A lethal dose of pure fentanyl is as little as two milligrams — the weight of 32 grains of table salt or seven poppy seeds — and police say many people are ingesting it unknowingly.
Police say drug dealers are adding illegally obtained fentanyl to other drugs they sell — like cocaine and counterfeit oxycodone tablets — to increase their profits and this is increasing the number of overdoses and deaths.
An online awareness campaign supported by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police offers information about short-term fentanyl antidotes at www.facethefentanyl.ca.
"OPP members and other first response agencies recognize the devastating impacts of misuse, abuse and distribution of illegal drugs and the growing toll this is taking on the communities we serve," Chief Supt. John Sullivan, commander of the OPP organized crime enforcement bureau, said in a release.
"We continue to do our part to communicate the potentially deadly risks to the public at every opportunity."
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has vowed that the Liberal government would leave no stone unturned as it looks at legislative changes to address the country's opioid crisis.
Health experts and ministers gathered for a two-day event last month to examine a national approach to addiction, overdose and deaths related to opioid use.
Isadore Day, the Ontario regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, told the summit that all First Nation communities are plagued by the opioid crisis.
The suicide crisis in indigenous communities is also tied to the opioid issue, Day said.
The Mounties reached an agreement with China late last month to try and halt the transpacific flow of fentanyl into Canada.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson and Chen Zhimin, the vice-minister of China's public security ministry, have agreed to boost efforts to disrupt the flow of the drug and other opioids.
British Columbia has been particularly hard-hit by the opioid crisis — fentanyl was detected in 374 overdose deaths during the first 10 months of the year.
Peter Cameron, The Canadian Press