WATCH ABOVE: It’s a dangerous drug being blamed for countless deaths across the country. Fentayl deaths are spiking across Canada and are the highest here in Alberta. Lisa Wolansky reports.
EDMONTON — In the first seven months of 2015, 145 people have died of fentanyl overdoses in Alberta.
It’s a number that’s jumped well over the 2014 figure.
“It is a huge issue, and the number of people dying is just the tip of the iceberg because there’s also other people who overdose and show up in emergency departments and so on,” said Dr. Gerry Predy, a medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services.
About 100 times more potent than morphine and 20 times more powerful than OxyContin, fentanyl is a synthetic opiate narcotic primarily prescribed to those with chronic pain. It’s known on the street as green beans, green jellies or street Oxy, and can often show up in other drugs.
“Fentanyl is out there and it’s not coming out there in a patch form,” said Mathew Wong, a nurse educator who leads the overdose prevention project with Streetworks.
“It’s being cut into the heroin, it’s being marketed as fake OxyContin so people don’t know what it is. “And it’s incredibly strong.”
READ MORE: Fentanyl 101 – The facts and dangers
Fentanyl isn’t just a problem in Alberta. From Jan. 1 to May 31 of this year, there were 54 fentanyl-related deaths in B.C., prompting a warning by local police. In Vancouver this past weekend there were six fentanyl overdoses in the span of just one hour.
Here in Alberta, AHS has launched a campaign titled ‘It’s never going to be you… until it is’ in hopes of raising awareness of the dangers of fentanyl.
“The campaign that we’re putting out there is stressing that you have to be cautious because when you buy a drug from a drug dealer you don’t always know what’s in there, so you can’t trust it,” said Predy.
WATCH: Predy discusses the dangers of fentanyl
Earlier this year AHS 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.
In 2014, there were 120 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta.