Fentanyl is the most dangerous drug right now on Red Deer’s streets because of its potency, according officials.
Cpl. Len Larson, with the Red Deer RCMP General Investigation Unit, said when the drug first hit the market it was being sold as Oxycontin in tablet form.
“We now are seeing it in powder form,” he said. “Our opiate users and addicts in town are using fentanyl instead of heroin. Basically they are getting fentanyl in replace of heroin – there is not much heroin anymore.”
Larson said fentanyl is replacing heroin because of the large profit margin on fentanyl. “It is a high return on your money. Fentanyl can be purchased very cheap and because it’s so potent they put additives in it so it is very cost effective for them (dealers).”
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent. Typically, fentanyl is used as anesthesia to help prevent pain after surgery or other medical procedures.
As mentioned, Larson added it is the most dangerous drug on the street right now in Red Deer. “Two milligrams on fentanyl can be a lethal dosage, so that would be like two grains of salt. Because it is so potent they mix it with additives, so you never know if you’re going to get a little bit more of the drug or not. You are taking your chances.”
Larson said the usage of fentanyl is concerning.
“You have people mixing it in laboratories and it’s a concern that you’re not knowing the dosage that you’re getting,” he said.
According to Alberta Health, in the first half of 2016 (Jan. 1st to June 30th), there were 153 people in Alberta who died from apparent drug overdoses related to fentanyl. Nine of those deaths were in Red Deer, according to the web site.
Larson added although fentanyl use is on the rise, both cocaine and methamphetamine continue to dominate the drug market in the City. “Those are still our predominate drugs.”
He added users are also now carrying Naloxone kits which are used to reverse an opioid overdose.
“I believe there are (a lot of people using the kits),” said Larson. “The opiate users are being recommended not to use alone, so sometimes there are two or three people and one of them has a kit on hand.”
Meanwhile, Health Canada announced in late August they will move forward on restricting six chemicals used in the production of fentanyl.
“This important move reflects Alberta’s advocacy for changes at the federal level, and we thank the Government of Canada for their partnership. Our government asked for this last fall after our police partners, the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP) passed resolutions relating to limiting access to the precursor drugs used to produce fentanyl. This government is focused on reducing the availability of fentanyl and other drugs in the province. Alberta’s police services know that precursor drugs are available in Alberta as they have already discovered large quantities of these deadly chemicals here,” said Kathleen Ganley, minister of Justice and Solicitor General.