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14 carfentanil deaths in 3 months spurs opioid warning in Alberta

WATCH: The provincial government has announced a plan to battle Alberta’s ongoing opioid crisis. Doug Vaessen has details.

Carfentanil is in Alberta’s cities and towns, killing people who may not know they’re taking the drug, described as 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

That’s the message from the Alberta government Monday as it announced a provincial response to what it calls an “opioid crisis.”

READ MORE: What is carfentanil? Deadly street drug is causing mass overdoses in the US

Fifteen drug overdose deaths have been linked to carfentanil in Alberta, 14 of which occurred between September and the end of November, the government said.

Click here for the Alberta government’s report: Opioids and Substances of Misuse

Watch below: Calgary police Acting Insp. Martin Schiavetta talks about the potency of carfentanil on Aug. 9

Carfentanil is 100 times more toxic than fentanyl
Carfentanil is 100 times more toxic than fentanyl

“I am deeply concerned about the increasing number of deaths associated with carfentanil,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Karen Grimsrud said in a statement. “It’s possible these individuals were not aware they were taking it.

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“It’s an extremely dangerous and deadly opioid. Even the smallest trace can be lethal.”

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READ MORE: Alberta considers radical new approach to battling fentanyl

The province says it’s focusing on harm reduction in its provincial response to the crisis, highlighting the Alberta Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is one of only a “very small number toxicology laboratories in Canada that is able to positively identify carfentanil in human blood.”

READ MORE: A province-by-province look at opioid-overdose stats, including fentanyl

Watch below from Aug. 9: A Calgary man was charged with importing what amounts to 50 million doses of carfentanil, a drug 100 times more potent than fentanyl, from China. Global’s Gary Bobrovitz has the details.

Police intercept deadly opioid carfentanil
Police intercept deadly opioid carfentanil

Alberta Health says it’s working with experts, community groups, parent advocates, law enforcement and the medical community to focus on four areas:

  1. improving the collection and publishing of data to better target interventions,
  2. expanding access to opioid replacement therapy,
  3. funding community agencies to assess the need for supervised consumption services, and
  4. promoting appropriate opioid prescribing and implementing new tools to prevent prescription drug misuse, in partnership with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

READ MORE: Opioid-related emergency room visits 57% higher in Alberta than Ontario, says report

The province has invested $3 million over three years for an opioid dependency treatment (ODT) expansion project and $240,000 in “proceeds of crime” grants has been given to police and community partners to raise awareness of the dangers of fentanyl and “other illicit drugs.”

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Watch below from Sept. 25: A young Calgary man’s life was changed forever when he unknowingly took fentanyl while he was a crystal meth addict. He’s now paralyzed and using his story to try and warn others. He and the mothers of two young men who lost their lives hope their stories will help save lives. Jill Croteau reports.

Young man’s unknowing use of fentanyl changes his life forever
Young man’s unknowing use of fentanyl changes his life forever

The government emphasized take-home naloxone kits, which are publicly-funded, are available at more than 900 registered locations, including pharmacies.

READ MORE: Edmonton councillors to discuss safe-injection sites

Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton is being awarded grant funding, in part to come up with an application for a federal exemption to offer supervised consumption services in its inner city.

READ MORE: Is Edmonton ready for safe-injection service? Local group thinks so

Alberta Health offered the following safety tips “if you are using these types of drugs”:

  • Don’t use them alone and make sure you are near someone who can call for help.
  • Don’t mix them with other drugs or alcohol.
  • It you suspect someone is overdosing, don’t wait. Dial 911 right away.
  • Carry a naloxone kit. Know how to use it to save someone’s life. Make sure your buddy knows how to use it to save yours. Naloxone is a temporary fix – you still need to call 911.
  • Most importantly, know there are resources available to help you whether you are using drugs for the first time or have used them frequently.
  • If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s use of illicit drugs, call the Addiction Helpline (24 hours a day, seven days a week) at 1-866-332-2322, or Health Link at 811.
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