It's been nearly three weeks after Sault Ste. The Marie-police authority warned the public of the dangers of the use of opioids in three deaths in three days – all suspected of opioid poisoning.
Sault Ste. Desiree Beck, chair of the Marie and Drugs Strategy Committee, says that the Drug Users Strategy Committee, consisting of 16 staff representing 16 employees, is currently looking for priority issues related to dependence and substance use. .
"It's terrible," Beck told SooToday last week. "It's terrible to think that people are losing people they love from substances that are really unregulated and horrifying."
As the committee developed from a small working group in 2014, it has noticed alarming trends.
Oxycontin withdrew from the shelves and heroin, along with other opioids, took its place – followed by the rise of synthetic fentanyl.
Beck says that heroin, fentanyl and stimulants such as crystal mats have all seen dramatic increases in use.
In 2016, the Drug Strategies Committee agreed with the city's police authorities to find out the "Know Source" campaign, which has become a tagline, "know your reseller, do not know the source."
The source of information, however, is becoming more and more difficult.
"Since the campaign came out, all opioid poisoning has been such a wave – a dramatic wave – because all the derivatives of fentanyl do not even know," Beck said.
Fentanyl derivatives are often cut into heroin, which has lost some of its intensity.
"We have no idea [of] the strength or toxicity of this powder, precisely because of how it is created, how it is cut to delivery, "said Beck.
And this can lead to what is termed "opioid poisoning" which is not the same as overdose.
"If you get a dose of high fentanyl, it's poisoning – you're not going to do it," Beck said.
Opioid poisoning can occur to anyone who uses – and includes users who use opioids in free time.
Beck points out that any use of the substance is not "chaotic or uncontrollable".
"It's one of the biggest things we see in this wave of opioid poisoning waves and related deaths that we see a lot of people who would not normally be considered stereotyped as your users," he said. "It's not just a chaotic use of the substance, it's also a recreational use."
"I think it's really easy to mark it, but it's one of the things that I think we should look at … there are many inadequate questions to talk about."
A versatile approach to the underlying issues
Sault Ste. Marie and the Drugs Anti-Drug Commission want to address social issues that are constantly affecting drug use, says Beck, as adequate housing and mental health care.
"There are so many different layers of things," said Beck. "Now we get to all these other layers of other drug addicts who influence our community and we prioritize them as we move to 2019."
That is why the committee, Beck says, has so many agencies sitting at the same table – taking part in monthly committee meetings, working groups and subcommittee meetings.
Here are some of the agencies that are currently involved in the Drug Strategy Committee, mentioned by Beck when speaking of SooToday:
- Sault Ste. Marie-police unit
- First respondents
- Algoma public health
- Breton House
- Algoma Family Services
- Ontario Works
- Alternatives to young people
- The Sault Hospital
- John Howard Society
- Group Health Center
"All of these different perspectives do not seem to be directly related to addictions or substance behavior, but I want to assure you that they are all interconnected and that we are trying to do this, that everything is connected, we are all together together," said Beck.
Changing public opinion
One of the challenges facing the committee is to change how people are engaging in dialogue and encounter "incredible losses" over the waves of opiate suspects in recent months.
"We do a lot of work and a lot of time in training, and I would say that it is very difficult to continue to involve people with positive ways of dealing with negative ways of saying" people should just stop using drugs, "said Beck." Because this is big- by changing people's perception of this condemning vision of what we are trying to do with an open, non-condemning, and firm view. "
Beck says that the recent Deaths suspected by the police are pertaining to the learner are layer indicators – layers of social issues and trauma layers.
"It is a sign that we have so much trauma, we have so many social issues that have yet to be addressed", "I think it's tragic. We are losing so many amazing people that the world really causes a terrible label [on] addiction or drug users, but it really makes me sad to the person we actually drowned. "
Sault Ste. The Canadian Institute of Health Research recently recognized that it was one of Canada's largest hospital treatment factors for opioid poisoning according to a new analysis.