Information session offers daunting lesson on fentanyl crisis

People attending the RCMP fentanyl information session in McLennan watch a video of a former addict relating her experiences and offering her views on the fentanyl crisis.

Tom Henihan
If there were any doubts regarding the dangers of fentanyl, Cpl Brad McIntosh of the RCMP ‘K’ Division, dispelled those doubts to the approximately 30 people who attended the RCMP’s information session at the Elks Hall in McLennan, January 10.

Members of the local RCMP, EMS and an FCSS representative also attended the session and occasionally offered things from their perspective when called upon by McIntosh.

Using an overhead projector to illustrate his point, Cpl McIntosh, a member of the Clandestine Lab Enforcement and Response Team, offered graphic and comprehensive information outlining how lethal Fentanyl is.

There are many different simulations of fentanyl such as carfentanil, which is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. Carfent- anil is an extremely dangerous drug and is associated with 15 recent deaths in Alberta.

All fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are highly potent. Some fentanyl analogues are phenomenally more potent than others but all have the capacity to be deadly.

McIntosh emphasized that with fentanyl and its analogues, one never knows what one is getting. To put things in perspective, if one ingests fentanyl the size of a grain of salt it will get you high, take two grains and one will likely overdose. One pound of fentanyl has the potential to kill 250,000 people.

Not alone is everything associated with fentanyl a problem for drug users, it is a dangerous substance to have in the environment such as apartment, house, car, etc. To inadvertently inhale or handle fentanyl can result in an overdose and have potentially fatal consequences.

Fentanyl can find its way into the market in many configurations, often in pill or powder form.

The fentanyl pill, imprinted with the acronym CDN on one side and the number 80 on the opposite side is quite common. The CND fentanyl tablet was originally designed to replicate Oxycontin, which ceased being manufactured in 2012.

In Alberta, the annual detected fentanyl fatalities over the past five years from 2012 are 34, 91, 90, 271 and 193 fatalities in 2016 up to September.

The numbers for the last quarter of 2016 are not yet available.

The effects of Fentanyl are immediate and the user can go into an overdose in an instant after taking it. As a short real-life video that McIntosh showed of an addict shooting-up on a bus and immediately after injecting the drug, falling to the floor unconscious from an overdose.

Fortunately, the man was in a public place and EMS arrived quickly, administered Naloxone and the man was revived.

Naloxone is a quick, effective means of reversing the state of fentanyl overdose.

There are approximately 900 registered sites across Alberta where Naloxone kits are available such as pharmacies and medical centres.

The kits are free and can be obtained without a prescription.

Anyone concerned about their own drug habit or the drug use of someone they know, they can call Health Link at 811 or the Addiction Help Line at 1-866-332-2322.

Towards the end of the information session, Cpl Brad McIntosh also admitted that the fentanyl epidemic is not one that the police can arrest their way out of. Education and a well-informed public are also a key factor in combating this very serious social and health care crisis.

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