Fentanyl antidote to become more readily available in Alberta

WATCH ABOVE: The government plans to make a special drug more available to help deal with the spike in fentanyl overdoses. Lisa Wolansky reports.

EDMONTON — An alarming trend in the number of Albertans dying from the illicit use of fentanyl has led to the expansion of a program that aims to combat overdose deaths.

“We’re having a problem with fentanyl,” said Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. “The trend is very worrisome.”

The number of people who have died in Alberta of fentanyl overdoses has skyrocketed from six in 2011 to 120 in 2014.

Alberta Health Services has approved $300,000 to dispense naloxone, an antidote that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, across the province. The antidote kits come with two doses of naloxone, syringes, gloves, alcohol wipes, a CPR mask and instructions on how to administer the drug.

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“We are literally saving lives with this sort of magical drug, this antidote,” said Mathew Wong, a nurse who leads the overdose prevention project with Streetworks. Streetworks at Boyle Street Community Services in Edmonton was the first in Canada to distribute the antidote in 2005.

“We are empowering people, so taking their drug use and putting the control in our hands so they’re not at the fate of the drug dealers or circumstance,” said Wong.

The new funding will also help train addicts how to use the kits and administer the drug.

“I think they should be readily available,” said Ron Kozoway, an addict who received training on the kit. “The more people know about it and the more awareness there, is the better we can prevent things and everyone can respect each other.”

READ MORE: Street drug fentanyl killing more Albertans

Fentanyl is known on the street as green beans, green jellies or street Oxy. Talbot says the drug is often manufactured to look like an Oxycodone pill and people don’t know what they’re actually getting.

Fentanyl is reported to be approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 20 times more powerful than OxyContin.

AHS plans to partner with community organizations that work with high-risk populations to help make the naloxone kits more available across Alberta. Streetworks will work with seven other organizations to roll out the program.

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With files from Lisa Wolansky, Global News.