WATCH ABOVE: Recent stories on the damaging and potentially deadly drug fentanyl have hit home with many Canadian families who have lost loved ones. Reid Fiest spoke to an Alberta nurse dealing with her own daughter’s death.
It only took “one bad pill” that turned out to contain fentanyl for Janis Radtke’s 32-year-old daughter to go to bed and never wake up again, leaving her young child orphaned.
Danielle Radtke had a history of drug use, but her mother said she had turned her life around before having her daughter.
Five months after Danielle’s death, Radtke shared her story in a blog post, explaining that the Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death was due to a mix fentanyl and an animal tranquilizer called xylazine.
“I encouraged her not to try things she wasn’t sure were safe and I think that’s the whole thing, that she tried this because she trusted somebody,” said Radtke, a registered nurse with Alberta Health Services in Calgary. “This was a concoction that didn’t come out of the pharmaceutical company. It was made somewhere in somebody’s basement or kitchen.”
“It’s like, perhaps, making a batch of cookies — chocolate chip cookies. You have no way of determining how many chocolate chips are going to be in any given cookie. It’s the same with these pills. One pill may have a tiny amount of fentanyl in it, the other may have five times the amount.”
That was the case with Danielle.
Radtke said her family still hasn’t spoken with the person whom they believe Danielle took the pill with and found her cold, blue body in bed.
Even though Danielle had her struggles with drug use before, opiates were not her “drug of choice,” Radtke said. “She had no tolerance and she really didn’t know anything about it.”
WATCH: Janis Radtke joins Global Calgary to discuss the death of her daughter Danielle, who was killed by ingesting a pill found to contain fentanyl.
And that’s the problem that is rippling across Canada as more people take drugs containing fentanyl without even knowing it.It’s being cut into drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and heroin, but also being passed off in fake OxyContin pills.
Fentanyl is a particularly potent drug — 100 times stronger than morphine and 20 times more than OxyContin.
Danielle is just one of 145 people in Alberta who have died from fentanyl-related deaths so far in 2015, according to Alberta Health Services; there were 120 in all of 2014.
“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, senior medical officer of health for the Capital Health Authority in Edmonton.
“I now belong to this elite club and there’s only one criteria for membership —the loss of a child,” said Radtke.
But she’s speaking out because she believes there is a “stigma or type of judgment” when it comes to drug-related deaths.
“This is so readily available out there that I’m afraid, I’m afraid for junior high school students, for high school students who might just want that good night’s sleep and trust somebody,” she said.
She doesn’t want other parents to have their lives torn apart just because of “one pill.”
And it’s not just her life that was: Danielle’s three-year-old daughter no longer has a mother and Radtke knows she’s one-day going to have to explain why.
With files from Reid Fiest and Caley Ramsay