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Opioids and Overdoses


March 16, 2018 – Hamilton Public Health Services and Niagara Public Health have issued alerts regarding “purple heroin” circulating in the community causing overdoses. “Purple heroin” is reported to be a heroin laced with a highly toxic illicit fentanyl. There have been no reports regarding “purple heroin” in Haldimand or Norfolk counties but the Health Unit reminds the public that all drugs can be cut with fentanyl. Know the signs of opioid overdoses and carry naloxone. Visit for more information.

What is an Overdose?

An overdose is when there is too much of a drug (or drugs) in a person’s body and it affects their body’s ability to maintain basic functions needed for life (such as breathing and heart rate). In an opioid overdose, what usually happens is that a person’s breathing slows or stops. Not everyone who overdoses will die but there can be long-term effects such as brain damage from lack of oxygen.

 Recognizing an Opioid Overdose

Signs of an opioid overdose include:

  • Slow, erratic or no breathing
  • Blue lips, nails or skin
  • Limp body
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Doesn’t respond to shouting or shaking
  • Deep snoring or gurgling sounds
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

*The difference between “the nods” and an overdose is unresponsiveness (not responding to shouting, shaking, etc.)

Responding to an Opioid Overdose

  1. Stimulate (shake shoulders, shout)
  2. Call 911
  3. Give Naloxone
  4. Chest compressions (if trained in first aid and comfortable to do so)
  5. Check (give another dose of naloxone after 3-5 minutes if no change)


  • Put the person in a cold bath
  • Make the person vomit
  • Inject person with anything other than naloxone (e.g. saltwater, cocaine, milk)
  • Let the person sleep it off

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit as well as participating pharmacies can provide Naloxone kits for free. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that temporarily reverses the effects of opioid overdose. It is still important to call 911 as the person may require multiple doses, and may slip back into overdose.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides certain protections if you are present when emergency services are called.

Kits and training are available from the following locations:

  • 12 Gilbertson Drive, Simcoe ON
  • 282 Argyle St. S., Caledonia ON
  • 117 Forest St. E., Dunnville ON

Injectable naloxone is also available free of charge in many pharmacies. Call ConnexOntario Helpline at 1-800-565-8603, visit or use the interactive map.