An example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly is shown at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Va., on June 6, 2017. In a statement, the Yukon’s chief coroner and acting chief medical officer of health said there were three deaths between Nov. 9 and 30 due to drugs contaminated with fentanyl. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP file)

Yukon officials issue warning after three fentanyl deaths last month

There were also a handful of overdoses that did not result in deaths

The territory’s chief coroner Heather Jones and acting chief medical officer of health Andy Delli Pizzi have issued a warning to Yukoners following three recent deaths linked to fentanyl.

In a Dec. 10 statement, Pizzi and Jones said there were three deaths between Nov. 9 and 30 due to drugs contaminated with fentanyl. There were also a handful of overdoses during this time that did not result in deaths.

Pizzi would not say what type of drugs contained fentanyl, noting, “any (illicit) drug can be contaminated”.

“Our families and communities continue to grieve as the opioid epidemic takes more loved ones from us,” Pizzi said in a statement. “People who use drugs should not use them alone. In Whitehorse, people can connect with the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre for support and to have drugs tested for fentanyl. In smaller communities, people can connect with their health centre for help.”

In a Dec. 10 interview, Pizzi also issued a reminder that naloxone kits are available at pharmacies and community health centres throughout the territory. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioid overdosing.

“They can save lives,” he said.

Jones also highlighted her concerns in the statement: “It is important that we re-emphasize the danger associated with drug use and the need to take precautions to minimize the risk of severe outcomes of overdose or death.”

Between 2016 and 2018, there were 20 opioid-related deaths in the Yukon; 15 of those have been attributed to fentanyl.

Nearly 75 per cent of the deaths over that period were men, which generally align with national estimates.

National estimates show an increase in opioid related deaths in Canada between 2016 and 2018. Estimates from the first quarter of 2019 demonstrate a similar number of deaths to the first quarter of 2018, the statement says.

According to the federal government web site, there were more than 12,800 apparent opioid-related deaths between January 2016 and March 2019 in Canada.

In 2016, there were 3,023 such deaths across the country, followed by 4,120 in 2017 and 4,588 in 2018. In the first three months of 2019 there were 1,082 apparent opioid deaths across the country.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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