WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Windsor Essex County Opioid and Substance Strategy has issued an alert after 18 overdose cases in a week.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit’s surveillance and monitoring system has identified an increase in substance misuse and overdose-related Emergency Department visits between May 12 and May 18.

Fentanyl was detected in 12 of the 18 overdose cases reported by the hospitals, as well three additional overdoses which involved other opioids.

“Stress, anxiety and self-isolation experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic can have a negative impact on substance use issues, including relapse and/or increase in the use and overdose,” says Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed.

Drug-related ER visits for the first three months of 2020 have been higher than the same time period in the previous two years.

Partners involved in the WECOSS, including the health unit, Windsor Regional Hospital, Essex Windsor-EMS and Erie Shores Healthcare, continue to monitor the increase and are working to understand more about the reported cases.