August 24, 2017 4:04 pm
Updated: August 25, 2017 8:55 am

Alberta paramedics warn of dangers of possible fentanyl stickers

Alberta paramedics have issued a warning about colourful stickers that might be laced with fentanyl.

Facebook / Alberta Paramedic Association

The Alberta Paramedics Association is warning people about a new, potential way to ingest fentanyl: brightly coloured stickers.

READ MORE: 241 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta in first half of 2017

The warning was originally issued by a Calgary paramedic, who found the stickers in the pockets of a suspected overdose victim, the Calgary Herald reports. 

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It’s important to note that these stickers shouldn’t be confused with prescription transdermal patches, which are designed to deliver a specific dose of medication into the bloodstream when placed on someone’s skin.

Transdermal patches have also become a popular option for people looking to use the drug to get high, the Herald states. The stickers referenced by the Alberta Paramedics Association are not prescription-grade patches, but are more likely a homemade creation.

WATCH: Alberta declares fentanyl problem a public health crisis

The image posted on the Facebook page shows pink and yellow-coloured stickers with images of letters and numbers on them sitting inside a biohazard bag. The post goes on to caution readers not to touch the stickers without gloves.

Dr. Mark Yarema, an emergency physician and medical director of Alberta Health Service’s poison and drug information service (PAIDS), told the Ottawa Citizen that they look like what “a three-year-old might put into a colouring book.”

Global News spoke to Dr. Zach Patterson and Dr. Matthew Young from the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse and Addiction. After being sent images of the stickers, they estimated that the consumption method was likely oral rather than transdermal.

WATCH: Saskatoon father speaks out after his daughter died of a suspected fentanyl overdose

“One of the things about the different routes of ingestion is the different ways you have to intervene if something goes wrong, since you might not know how much of the substance or exactly what substance you’re taking,” says Dr. Patterson.

Dr. Young added that when it comes to fentanyl there are any number of ingestion routes.

READ MORE: Fentanyl crisis: Toronto addiction doctor takes your questions

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto told Global News it has not come across stickers such as those seen in the picture.

According to data from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, there were 655 fentanyl-related deaths recorded in Canada between 2009 and 2014. Those number have dramatically increased in recent years. In 2016, Canada recorded 2,458 opioid-related deaths.

Patterson said that in many cases, Canadians are not armed with the knowledge to make informed decisions about fentanyl consumption.

“We know one of the dangers of fentanyl is that it’s capable of shutting down parts of the brain that are associated with your survival,” Patterson said.

“If you’re in a position to figure out what’s in your drugs, I would encourage you to do so.”

WATCH: Fentanyl overdoses on the rise in Kingston

The Citizen notes states that while the stickers haven’t been tested to confirm whether they contain fentanyl, they resemble another ingestion method known as “blotters.”

Blotters can be made from raw fentanyl crystals that are crushed into talc and put in a solution that’s used to soak strips of paper. Police in Ontario and Manitoba have seized fentanyl “blotters” in the past – a paper tablet resembling LSD “tabs.”

READ MORE: ‘Drop dead’ carfentanil blotter tabs finding a market on Winnipeg streets: Police chief

Fentanyl overdoses via blotters or other paper ingestion routes have become a well-known tactic amid the North American opioid crisis.

Blotters have surfaced periodically as consumption methods for fentanyl and other opioids. “Blotters” are listed on both Health Canada’s website and the RCMP‘s website as potential consumption methods for fentanyl and other illicit drugs. In September, 2016, Winnipeg police raided a hotel room containing 1,477 blotter tabs suspected to contain carfentanil, an analog of the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

READ MORE: 3 arrested, more than 3,000 fentanyl pills seized in Calgary drug bust worth $700K: ALERT

Back in February, a West Virginia man was charged after being found with fentanyl-laced stickers in his back pocket, reports The News Center in Wood County. It’s unclear from the report whether the stickers resembled those found in Calgary in August.

Patterson urges for individuals who take fentanyl or other opioids for medical reasons to have naloxone on their person: “It can save lives if administered in the case of an opioid overdose.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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