Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Jordan Luken, 12, died in May 2017
A couple in Toronto have been charged after a toddler died from ingesting illicit drugs while in their care.
Twelve-year-old Jordan Luken, from his family’s home in Brantford, Ontario, ingested what later tested positive for “codeine” laced heroin in May last year.
His sister, then four, was also charged after her mother found her unconscious on a couch.
The charges come in the wake of other deaths linked to the sale of fake street drugs – fentanyl in particular.
How fentanyl and heroin are causing young people to overdose
The most prominent synthetic opioid is Fentanyl, a powerful medication mainly used to treat severe pain – with little to no pharmaceutical uses.
Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin. Another popular street drug that has been linked to deaths in Ontario and other parts of Canada is K2 or Spice.
K2 is a synthetic substitute of cannabis that is often sprayed on to various plants, including plants that contain sativa or stevia. It is often packaged as incense and sprayed on herbs, and sold for around $5 to $15 (C$10 to C$20) a packet.
Fentanyl can be smoked and inhaled or be ingested as a powder or liquid.
Image copyright Lake Erie Land Trust Image caption Both Jordan and his sister were taking part in a “warrior boot camp” for “underprivileged youth”
The very popular online selling and buying of the products is a major source of synthetic drugs in the US and Canada.
Shortly after a report on the deaths linked to the sale of synthetic drugs in Toronto, Lake Erie Land Trust, a non-profit group which provided the two children in the “warrior boot camp” programme with several opiate-based programs, confirmed that the nature of their activities had been changed, following Jordan’s death.
In a statement, the trust said it had decided that the camp “now focus solely on clearing-up the horrible situation of their loved one.”
A number of health authorities in Ontario are grappling with the toll of fentanyl on the province’s young people.
Public health authorities in York Region, which covers all of northern Toronto, have announced a public awareness campaign focusing on understanding the relationship between opiate abuse and psychosis.
The Waterloo Region Public Health Unit, meanwhile, released a new strategy to help prevent youth from taking heroin and similar drugs by strengthening delivery of services that tackle the underlying issues of youth risk.
The strategy also underscores the role that young people play in advocating for treatment if necessary.
It says this, particularly in the teenage years, “often means the freedom to make decisions, assert personal value, and develop a skillful voice in navigating the normal social-communication challenges associated with adolescent development”.
Calls for more to be done to address the widespread sale of synthetic drugs were also expressed in a recent report by a committee of pharmacists that examined how to tackle the problem.
Image copyright Sophie L’Haiti/Getty Images Image caption Sophie L’Haiti has tried to protect her three children from street drugs
An overwhelming majority of the committee’s 57 recommendations relate to enforcement and safety measures and would “require legislation and regulatory actions”, the report said.
The two co-accused in Jordan’s death – Sela Bushanovic and Dona Stamatić – appeared before a judge on Thursday and were released on bail.