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Rising fentanyl abuse spurs need for public education: Alberta group

Lethbridge residents had a chance to learn more about fentanyl and opioid abuse at the Southern Alberta Council of Public Affairs (SACPA) Thursday.

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman was on hand to hear Dr. Karin Goodison of Alberta Health Services present information about fetanyl and its rapid increase in the province. Both the prescribed and illegally-manufactured form of the drug are being sold and sometimes mixed with other illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine.

Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of the fentanyl crisis in Alberta

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Goodison said it’s important the general public receives education on the issue.

“People are going to be users that we don’t recognize as a typical user,” she said. “For example, in the case of prescription use, some people may have had back pain, gone to their family doctor, got set up with a prescription, the doctors ween them off. They ‘re not tolerating that very well–they look to other methods to get their oxycodone and could accidentally take an illicit fentanyl thinking it’s the real thing.”

In 2015, 272 fentanyl-related deaths were reported in Alberta. Just four years earlier, only six deaths were reported.

Hoffman said the province is doing what it can to educate the public about the growing problem.

“Obviously harm reduction is an important component: making sure you can save a life any time you have the ability to, as well as creating opportunities to get the drug off the streets and increase opportunities for treatment, like through the naloxone clinics we are continuing to move on.”

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