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Combination of meth, fentanyl keeping people addicted, says former dealer

Crime Wave: Meth in a flawed city
WATCH: Methamphetamine is tightening its grip on Winnipeg. The cheap high and the fallout it sparks is reaching into every corner of the community. But at the root of it all, experts say it’s not just a meth crisis — it comes down to a crisis with coping.

In the second story of a three-part series on the human toll of crime in Winnipeg, a former meth dealer says it’s fentanyl that keeps people addicted to methamphetamine. Read the first and third stories here, or watch Global News’ full crime special.

A former drug dealer says the combination of meth and fentanyl is keeping people addicted and exacerbating Winnipeg’s crime spike.

Global News spoke to a man we’re only identifying as Bruce, who fell in with organized crime several years ago in Winnipeg. As a former meth dealer, Bruce says the drug’s inexpensive costs in combination with the opioid fentanyl is the main driving force behind crime done by users under the influence.

READ MORE: ‘Tough on crime’ is not the answer to fixing Winnipeg’s inner-city meth issues — report

“Fentanyl [is] so addictive, you need it,” he said. “Needing it, it’s different than wanting it. Meth, you just want it, but you can come off of it anytime. All you gotta do is sleep and eat. It’s pretty easy to come off meth.”

Bruce says the rise of fentanyl has resulted in more serious substance abuse issues among drug users.

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“You throw in fentanyl, and people are using meth to get up in the morning,” Bruce said. From there, meth gives them the energy and drive to find fentanyl at any cost, he says, “because they’re addicted to it. They need it.”

READ MORE: $100K granted to community groups for safety and crime prevention: Winnipeg mayor

Now you’re … in the midst of psychosis, and you’ll do anything for this drug. That’s why you see people getting punched out at the LCs. That’s why you see people’s house getting home-invaded and they don’t care if they’re home,” he said.

“That’s why you see when people are running away from cops that they’re running around the [police cruiser] because they don’t want to go to jail, ’cause they can’t get no fentanyl in jail.”

From hockey to gangs

Bruce’s fall into organized crime started when he was 16 and training to make a high-level hockey team. The dream ended when he broke his ankle and the team didn’t keep a spot open for him.

“I slowly stopped giving a s–t after that,” he says. “That manifested into me getting kicked out of school a couple of years later because it just … it cascaded. And then I was already involved with crime because my friends were involved with these people, and so that I was involved with these people.”

He added: “They are encouraging us to do whatever, and we were already bad to begin with because it’s what teenagers do. They do experiment.”

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Bruce began doing small jobs for local gangs, and then five years ago, meth came on the scene.

READ MORE: (Oct. 2, 2018) On the front lines of Winnipeg’s meth crisis

It took off quickly due to its inexpensive nature and fast, long-lasting high, he says.

“I bet you on a day … I know for a fact I’ve been involved with organized crime and like a group of people that are getting rid of or selling upwards of like three or four kilos of meth in a day. Per day,” he said.

“Now, that’s one group — imagine how many groups there are out there like that.”

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Winnipeg Police Service Insp. Max Waddell says the price of meth is continuing to drop.

“A point of it, or a tenth of a gram, is typically sold for about $10. But I am hearing through the grapevine that some people are so desperate to sell it that they’ll sell it for $5 and even as cheap as $2,” Waddell said.

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Bruce says he moved up the ranks and became more of a pusher rather than a seller.

“It means that I don’t necessarily see the drugs or see the transactions going on. I just find the people to do the footwork and give them what they need for the period of time that they need it. And then they come back with money,” he explained.

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READ MORE: Winnipeg fire, paramedic resources ‘severely taxed,’ according to chief

Low-income neighbourhoods were his target, he says, describing many of the people as “disenfranchised at some point.” Bruce, himself, grew up in a solidly middle-class neighbourhood in south Winnipeg.

‘Trying to feed their family’

It wasn’t until Bruce had kids that he says he escaped that lifestyle.

“It’s just not worth it. It’s really just not worth it,” he said.

Most of the people in his life were happy and encouraging to him for leaving that lifestyle, he says.

READ MORE: Peer support group for Winnipeggers with meth addiction embraces $5,000 in funding

“No one really wants to live that lifestyle eventually, especially you’ve been in it forever, or you’ve experienced anything that’s, like, super shameful or something that’s guilt-worthy. You wouldn’t want that for your kids.

But for those who stay in it, many of them aren’t bad people, Bruce says.

“They’re just trying to feed their family, man, or they’re just trying to get enough money to start a business or do something, you know, get on with their life just because most people feel like they don’t have an option.”