Waterloo Regional Police Service partner with Public Health and School Boards and offer Important Information for Families Regarding Opioid-Related Drug Overdoses and Deaths

Waterloo Regional Police Service partner with Public Health and School Boards and offer Important Information for Families Regarding Opioid-Related Drug Overdoses and Deaths

June 28, 2017
Dear Residents of Waterloo Region,
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We live in a safe and vibrant community with a tradition of collaboration and partnership. As families, neighbours and friends, it is important to be aware of the risks of drugs, including overdose. We have shared the contents of this letter with our School Boards, specifically addressed to parents and guardians. This is our open letter to you, from one resident of Waterloo Region to another.
Ontario and Waterloo Region have seen a rise in opioid related deaths in recent years. There are many factors contributing to the rise of overdose in our community, one being the presence of a drug called fentanyl. According to the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario, the number of drug related overdose and deaths in Ontario is increasing. Local data shows that the number of overdose deaths in Waterloo Region doubled between 2009 and 2015 and continues to rise.
On June 27, 2017 Waterloo Regional Police Services reported that there were 35 suspected overdose related deaths in Waterloo Region since the start of the year, that’s nearly as many deaths as the entire 2015 year.
Being a parent, a neighbour, a friend or a concerned citizen in the current climate of opioid discussion can be very difficult and stressful. As residents, we may constantly worry about the safety of those around us. Drugs are part of our society and the best way to decrease harms is to have accurate information. We are hoping this letter will bring some familiarity with those around you about the current issues of drug use, including the risks of overdose, the use of prescription medications (from a pharmacy or made on the street) and the dangers of combining drugs with alcohol. This approach includes both preventing substance use and decreasing harms to those in our community who are using drugs. Overdose does not discriminate - it can happen to anyone’s family. It is important to equip ourselves with knowledge about drug use including the signs and symptoms of overdose and what to do in an overdose situation. Part of this includes reminding everyone that a person who calls 911 in an overdose situation is protected from police charges of drug possession (Bill C-224/Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act).
As we continue to explore innovative approaches to harm reduction and the protection of our community, we need you, the resident of Waterloo Region, to understand the importance of this issue. Having supportive conversations is a good place to start. For more information and support please visit www.waterlooregiondrugstrategy.ca. We have included more detailed information below to help you start a conversation at home, at your workplace, or in your neighbourhood.
We thank you for taking the time to read this information letter.
Dr. Liana Nolan Commissioner and Medical Officer of Health
Chief Bryan M. Larkin Waterloo Regional Police Service
John Bryant Director of Education, WRDSB
Loretta Notten Director of Education, WCDSB
There can be different reasons why people use drugs, including:
• Curiosity
• Escape – usually from emotional pain
• To relate to others better, peer pressure
• Copying behaviour of family/siblings
• To get a rush
• On a dare
• Substance use happening at home
• Low self-esteem
• Deal with negative feelings
Some signs and symptoms of drug use among people:
• Problems at school or at work – absenteeism, decreasing effort, frequent distraction
• Increased secrecy about possessions, friends and activities
• Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odours
• Increased need for money or missing money
• Drug related posts on social media
• Less attention to personal care/hygiene
• Increase in sleeping/naps. Nodding off at inappropriate times; or
• Increase in hyperactivity outside of what is usual
• Missing prescription drugs – especially narcotics and sedatives from the family home or extended family homes
• Friends, colleagues or family may also find items in the subject’s possession that indicate drug use. These include:
o Drug paraphernalia (such as bongs, pipes, small baggies, pills, powder, needles and rolling papers)
o Inhalant products (such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid or household products)
o Other unusual over the counter medicines such as cough medicine
o Rags and paper bags, which may be used as accessories with inhalants
What can I do to support my child when it comes to substance use?
• Strong, open relationships between parents or caregivers and children decrease the likelihood that teens will abuse drugs.
• As a parent or caregiver, it is important to talk to your children about drugs and alcohol. Start early and keep the lines of communication open. Discuss a broad range of issues not limited to substance use with your child and invite their opinions even if they are different from your own.
• Let your child know their safety comes first and they can depend on you to help them if they feel concerned about their own or a friend’s safety.
• Set an example by being responsible about your own use of alcohol and other drugs.
• Stay in the know. You don’t have to be an expert. Recognize that experimentation and mistakes happen. Help your child to reflect on a mistake but be sure to wait until you are both calm.
• It is good to know the symptoms of drug use among teenagers. Keep in mind that some signs of drug use overlap with very common teenage behaviours (such as moodiness and withdrawal).
Where can I get more support and information?
Please visit: http://www.waterlooregiondrugstrategy.ca/en/home/.
Additional Resources
Name of Organization
Here 24/7 (Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington)
Sanguen Health Centre
Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services
Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy
Ray of Hope (providing youth and addiction services)
References: Opioids and Addiction: a primer for journalists. CAMH 2016
Parent Action on Drugs.org
Things You Need to Know
1. It is possible to experience harm from drug use, even if you’re doing it occasionally or for the first time.
2. Mixing drugs can be dangerous and should be avoided. It increases risk of overdose.
3. If you are buying drugs off the street it is impossible to know exactly what’s in them. Any illegally-purchased drug can be ‘cut’ (mixed) with other drugs without you knowing.
4. Opioids (heroin) and opioid pain medication (oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl) can reduce pain and emotional response to pain. They are also addictive and can slow your breathing, with a chance your breathing might stop if you take too much.
5. Avoid combining opioid pain medication with other depressant drugs (alcohol, anxiety or sleeping pills). This makes it even more likely you will experience difficulty breathing.
6. You may have heard about an opioid drug called fentanyl that is causing a lot of harm in Alberta and across Canada. Fentanyl can be prescribed or made illegally in a lab and is about 100 times more toxic than morphine or other opioids.
7. Bootleg Fentanyl (made on the street) has the potential to be even more dangerous than prescription Fentanyl because:
• A small amount can be fatal – as little as equivalent of 2 grains of salt
• people may not be aware that they are consuming it as it can be mixed in with other drugs
• you can’t see it, smell it, taste it or test for it
8. There is a risk of opioid overdose, even if you are not using opioids. This is because opioids can be mixed in with other drugs.
9. If you are using drugs, or are with someone who has used drugs, know the signs of an opioid overdose: slow or shallow breathing, not breathing at all, snoring or gurgling sounds, cold clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, limp body, vomiting or choking, blue lips/nails.
10. Naloxone is a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
If someone has overdosed from an opioid and is in trouble:
• Call 9-1-1 immediately
• Administer Naloxone if it’s an opioid overdose
• Stay with the person until help arrives
• Put the person on their side (recovery position)
Remember, if someone is experiencing an opioid overdose, Call 911 immediately. 


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