Street drug fentanyl killing more Albertans

WATCH ABOVE: There’s growing concern from police over an increase in the illicit use of fentanyl in Alberta. As Shallima Maharaj reports, it contributed to a substantial number of deaths last year. 

EDMONTON – An alarming number of Albertans are dying from illicit use of the drug fentanyl, according to a new report.

Preliminary numbers released by RCMP, AHS and the Chief Medical Examiner show the drug killed more than 100 people in 2014. That is a significant increase from six deaths in 2011. Fentanyl is reported to be approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 20 times more powerful than OxyContin.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that appears in the form of pills or powder. It is often referred to as ‘greenies’ on the street and is sometimes sold as OxyContin, because the pills look similar.

READ MORE: RCMP, doctors warn of dangers of fentanyl after counterfeit drugs found in Edmonton area 

“Fentanyl is not a new drug of abuse.  What we are seeing is the tragic reality of street drugs,” says Dr. Mark Yarema, Medical Director of Alberta’s Poison and Drug Information Service (PADIS).

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“No matter what you think you’re buying, when it comes to street drugs, you really don’t ever know what you’re getting.”

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Police in Alberta have seized record amounts of fentaynl in the past year. The following are an example of some of those seizures:

  • 14,000 tablets – April 2014 to now – various Alberta communities – ALERT
  • 10,000 tablets – Fall 2014 – Grande Prairie RCMP
  • 60,000 tablets – November 2014 – West of Calgary RCMP Traffic
  • 3,927 tablets – February 2015 – Sherwood Park RCMP
  • 36 tablets – March 2015 – Innisfail RCMP
  • 507 tablets – March 2015 – Grande Prairie RCMP

READ MORE: Teen’s fentanyl overdose highlights troubling trend in Alberta 

“None of my police officers want to notify someone of the death of their loved one, especially when it could have been prevented,” says Alberta RCMP Commanding Officer, Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan.

“Organized crime is a driving force behind synthetic drug production and trafficking.

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“Illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, fuels organized crime which in turn breeds other criminal activity throughout the communities we live in,” Ryan adds.

READ MORE: Vancouver police warn about spike in fentanyl-induced overdose deaths 

Those concerned about their own drug or alcohol use, the drug or alcohol use of a friend or loved one, or would simply like more information on drug and alcohol use, contact the Addiction & Mental Health 24 Hour Helpline at 1-866-332-2322.

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