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Fentanyl: Will the situation get worse before it gets better?

Watch above: Dr. Peter Butt, who is with the department of family medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, explains the dangers of illicit Fentanyl and how lethal it can be. 

SASKATOON – One expert believes the current situation with Fentanyl and the increased number of fatal overdoses will get worse before it gets better.

“There’s a definite upswing of usage,” said Dr. Peter Butt out of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Just ‘one bad pill’ with fentanyl killed 32-year-old Danielle Radtke

Saskatoon police have sounded the alarm several times in recent months over the dangers of Fentanyl, which has been linked to a number of overdoses and deaths in recent months. Recently, a youth narrowly escaped with his life after he and a friend knowingly took a quarter pill each of counterfeit OxyContin.

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Police investigators say the deadly drug is coming into Saskatchewan from Edmonton and British Columbia.

READ MORE: Saskatoon police issue another alarm over fake OxyContin

Butt is somewhat surprised by the increase.

“This is a niche that organized crime has recognized and exploited by developing an even more potent opioid, hydromorphone or heroin in order to try to recruit more users,” he told Global News.

Even though there isn’t a profile for a typical Fentanyl user, Butt says there is a pattern .

“Fentanyl snorters are more typically people that are younger, Caucasian, more typically better off, from the suburbs or smaller regional centres, by and large more naïve users.”

“[This] makes them more prone to overdose; they don’t know what their getting into, they don’t understand the importance of testing out a drug,” as they assume that because it appears like a pharmaceutical product that it’s at pharmaceutical grade but it’s clearly not.

READ MORE: Edmonton-area mother shares painful story following son’s fentanyl overdose

Butt also believes there needs to be a differentiation between legal Fentanyl, which typically comes in a patch, and the illicit kind that is taking lives on the street. The problem with the powdered form of Fentanyl used in pills or snorted is that there is absolutely no quality control.

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“Not even the manufacturer, not the trafficker, not even the dealer knows how much is in any one pill.”

READ MORE: Fentanyl fact sheet: what it is and what it does

A key part of counteracting this surge is to be informed of the risk, as well as knowing the treatment options.

For those who do find themselves addicted to Fentanyl treatment options are similar to that of other drug addictions: detox and a transition into rehab, although Butt says that with a drug this potent, “It’s not uncommon for the detox and withdrawal management to be more prolonged.”

READ MORE: Waging a war against Fentanyl deaths with an ‘EpiPen’ for overdoses

There is also opioid substitution therapy available to help stabilize people while they put their life together, and in some provinces naloxone kits are readily available. These kits, sometimes referred as the EpiPen for addicts, are a reversal agent that can be administered when someone overdoses.