Alberta has seen more than 153 deaths this year due to fentanyl overdoses.
Deaths related to the synthetic opioid have increased steadily over the years and efforts are increasing to deal with the problem. To help educate Albertans, the Alberta Specialized Law Enforcement Training (ALERT) held a special conference Oct. 20 and 21 providing facts and to raise awareness of what the drug actually does.
Also in attendance of the conference was School Resource Officer (SRO) Jackie Tessel who advises parents to talk, and listen, to their kids about drugs and whether they use them. She recommends parents educate themselves.
Overdose deaths on the rise
Cpl. Curtis Peters, RCMP strategic communications, compiled a list of information from the conference that shows just how many people are dying of fentanyl-linked overdoses.
• 2012 – 34 deaths
• 2013 – 91 deaths
• 2014 – 90 deaths
• 2015 – 272 deaths
• 2016 (January to June) – 153 deaths
The synthetic opioid is generally used as a strong painkiller and comes in a prescription patch. Most recently Carfentanyl, which has a similar use, emerged in Alberta. Cafentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroine.
In the hands of drug dealers, the danger becomes greater. Tessel says dealers have no regard for the safety of their so-called clientelle.
“The pill pressers have this extremely dangerous drug in their residence and the utter destruction it causes to that residence is astounding. The residence is a write-off and poses a huge danger to the surrounding residents,” said Tessel.
The majority of fentanyl overdoses and seizures in Alberta comes in the form of counterfeited oxycodone tablets, which are green and marked as “CDN 80.”
The true CDN 80 tablets have not been manufactured by pharmaceutical companies since 2012. Any CDN 80 tablets on the street today are counterfeit, illegally manufactured and contain fentanyl or one of its analogues such as carfentanyl.
The pills have nicknames such as Beans, Greenies, Green Beans, Fake 80s, Shady 80s and Oxy.
Other dangers include makers lacing other drugs with fentanyl, explained Tessel. “This drug could be mixed into almost anything.”
“You never truly know what is in street drugs until they are tested. Frequently passed off as something it is not (fentanyl sold as heroin) or lacing another drug,” she added.
Fentanyl is also found in fake or imitation heroin, which organized crime groups create by cutting the fentanyl powder with other substances and then dying it to appear the same color as heroin.
Fentanyl drug facts:
In 2016, Alberta experienced an average of 400 emergency room visits per month for fentanyl overdoses.
The lethal dose — meaning a dosage which would result in overdose death 50 per cent of the time — for fentanyl is two milligrams. For visual example, an average business card weighs one gram; enough to cause an overdose in 500 people.
Fentanyl can be introduced into the body:
– Orally – typically the swallowing of tablets
– Snorting – typically by grinding tablets down to a fine powder and snorting into the nasal cavity
– Smoking – typically this method is seen with heroin users who burn the substance and inhale the smoke produced
– Injecting – fentanyl is blended with a liquid and injected directly into the blood stream with a hypodermic needle/syringe
The danger of overdose increases significantly as the list goes down. Injection carries the highest risk of overdose.