Officials meet in Toronto to tackle fentanyl issue

Toronto officials hopes to learn from Vancouver

TORONTO — Politicians, public health officials and other stakeholders are meeting in Toronto today to discuss how the city can tackle the fentanyl-fuelled opioid crisis that is moving across the country.

The first gathering of the Toronto Overdose Early Warning and Alert Partnership hopes to provide a better understanding of drug overdoses and related trends in the city.

Mayor John Tory says Toronto can’t afford to be complacent for one moment when it comes to fentanyl, which has killed hundreds of people in British Columbia.

He says he’s been watching the spike of fentanyl-related overdoses in Vancouver, and has been warned by the mayor of that city to “get ready.”

Toronto’s acting medical officer of health says there were 45 fentanyl-related overdose deaths recorded in 2015 in Toronto, compared to 23 deaths in 2014.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the city’s acting medical officer of health, says fentanyl is a growing issue and the city needs to act now to ensure it doesn’t get worse.

Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller roughly 100 times more potent than morphine that produces a drug high but also depresses the body’s rate of respiration, which can cause breathing to stop.

A dose of just two milligrams of pure fentanyl — the weight of seven poppy seeds — can be lethal. Police have said many people are ingesting it unknowingly as the drug, which cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, is difficult to detect when laced into other drugs.

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