Police worried about increased use of often deadly alternatives to de-listed OxyContin

Sarnia Police has said that they've seen a marked increase in the use of often deadly prescription and street drugs that are filling the void left by the recent de-listing of OxyContin.

In June, Sarnia Police investigated the death of a 46-year-old woman who overdosed on Fentanyl. This prescription painkiller has seen an increase in use since OxyContin was de-listed in March. The woman who died was a professional in the community and, police said, even her spouse had no knowledge of her illicit drug use.

On Jun. 22, local authorities investigated a break and enter at a home on Willa Drive in which a 17-year-old Sarnia girl and her 19-year-old boyfriend, also from Sarnia, allegedly broke into the home of her mother. They apparently entered the home through an open window and took a computer, a camera and an Apple iPad. The pair allegedly sold the goods to buy Oxycodone and was subsequently charged with Break and Enter.

On Jun. 27 around 7 p.m., the same 17-year-old female and a different 19-year-old male were at a home near Wellington and Murphy where they apparently smoked a Fentanyl patch. Police said the 17-year-old girl fell unconscious after smoking the drug and those around her immediately called 911. The female was, police said, on a recognizance of bail for the earlier Break and Enter so she was arrested, once released from hospital, and charged accordingly. 

On Jun. 28 around 3:30 p.m., Sarnia Police and EMS responded to a business on London Road regarding a male passed out in a washroom. Police said the 19-year-old male had allegedly smoked a Fentanyl patch and was rendered unconscious. He was taken to hospital for treatment. This was the same male who was with the 17-year-old female the day before, on Jun. 27, when she overdosed on Fentanyl.

On Jul. 1, Sarnia Police responded to a residence on Confederation in the early evening where a 24-year-old Sarnia man had allegedly injected heroin and fell into unconsciousness. He was taken to hospital for treatment.

On Jul. 3 around 3:30 p.m., a Sarnia Police COPPS officer stopped a vehicle in a parking lot at the 1600-block of London Line. Inside the vehicle were a 31-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man, both from Sarnia, and a 32-year-old Corunna woman. Drugs were found. Among the drugs, over 5 grams of methamphetamine, approximately 6 Fentanyl patches of various dosages (two 75 microgram patches and three 100 microgram patches) along with a small quantity of marihuana.

 All three were held for bail to face charges of Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Oxycodone, Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Methamphetamine, and Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Fentanyl, Possession of Marihuana, Breach of Probation and Breach of Undertaking.

These types of incidents, police said, were predicted by Detective Constable Ivan Skinn of the Sarnia Police Vice Branch a few months ago. He indicated that people would resort to other drugs like Fentanyl because of the de-listing of OxyContin. He said police would be investigating a lot of overdoses and believes, in only a few short months, his prediction has become a reality. 

"It is evident that there is no social economic class or age distinctions in the addictions to prescription drug abuse," said Skinn.

Police said drug abusers are increasingly turning to a slow-release form of a powerful painkiller for a quick and dangerous high. The trend is raising alarm as the number of people dying from an overdose of the drug Fentanyl, an opioid 100 times more potent than morphine, rises.

Experts believe addicts are misusing a clear patch that transfers a controlled dose of Fentanyl through the skin into the bloodstream over the course of a few days. The adhesive patch is typically prescribed to treat postoperative pain or chronic pain conditions, but in some cases, is being misused, often with deadly consequences.

The patch is a sustained release form of the drug, if one withdraws the 72 hours' worth of drug and uses it in a form that it wasn't designed to be used for, it can rapidly result in death. In many cases, people who died from overdosing on the drug were able to easily remove the full dose of Fentanyl from the patch and take the entire three day amount at once, either by injecting, ingesting or smoking it. In some cases, the deceased sought a state of euphoria by applying multiple patches simultaneously. 

A 100 microgram of Fentanyl is equal to 200 milligrams of OxyContin or 400 milligrams of morphine.  Half of a 50 microgram patch of Fentanyl could cost approximately $130. A 100 microgram patch of Fentanyl may cost about $300.

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