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Police issue public warning after overdose deaths spike in downtown Toronto

Toronto police have issued a public safety warning about dangerous opioids they believe are being sold in the downtown core after seven people died from overdoses in the past 12 days.

Const. David Hopkinson told CBC Toronto Tuesday evening police have been called to a number of overdoses since Aug. 2, seven of which were fatal.

All of the deaths occurred in 14 Division, which spans from Dupont Street in the north, Spadina Avenue in the east, Dufferin Street in the west, and Lake Ontario to the south.

“If we spoke about seven people dying throughout the city, it would be alarming,” said Const. David Hopkinson. “We are talking about one division.”

Police said the deaths are due to fentanyl or carfentanyl. They say the two synthetic opioids have either contaminated other street drugs or people are using the two drugs in higher quantities than normal.

Hopkinson said investigators at 14 Division asked the police service to issue the public warning because of how dangerous the drug is.

“Fentanyl and carfentanyl are very dangerous drugs in their own right,” he said. “It takes a very small amount of fentanyl to kill someone and carfentanyl is 100 times more powerful.”

Hopkinson also said the coroner has expedited blood testing of the victims to try to determine the cause

Data from Toronto Public Health shows that 303 people died in 2017 due to opioid-related causes. That is up from 186 in 2016.

The city of Toronto developed an overdose action plan in March 2017, which includes supporting supervised consumption sites where people can use drugs under the supervision of health-care professionals.

But the future of these sites is in doubt since the election of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term care announced last week it would not approve funding for any new overdose prevention sites while the minister evaluates their efficacy.

CBC | Toronto News