Fentanyl drug of choice for almost 50% of addicts, Alberta addictions experts say

Fentanyl remains the major concern, according to frontline addictions workers who gathered in Calgary to mark the fourth annual 'Recovery Day' at Olympic Plaza on Sunday.

'My girlfriend brought me back twice. So, you know, I easily could be dead.'

Jeff Searle says he overdosed twice on fentanyl, but his girlfriend saved his life with a naloxone kit. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

Fentanyl remains the major concern, according to frontline addictions workers who gathered in Calgary to mark the fourth annual 'Recovery Day' at Olympic Plaza on Sunday.

"I overdosed twice on that, man," says Jeff Searle, who has battled drug addiction for most of his adult life.

Searle says he would likely be dead if his girlfriend didn't administer a shot of naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose.

"My girlfriend brought me back twice. So, you know, I easily could be dead, man, for sure."

Fentanyl has killed more than 150 Albertans in the first half of this year, and almost 300 last year.

Searle, who's originally from Victoria, B.C., says he has been clean for five months, and is living at a Calgary-based recovery centre called Simon House.

"We're seeing a definite increase in people seeking treatment and seeking recovery for fentanyl addiction," says Trevor Loria, president of Simon House.

Loria says he sees more than 200 patients every year. Of those, 90 per cent have tried fentanyl, and 40 to 50 per cent say it's their drug of choice.

"We got here with fentanyl because fentanyl is so powerful. Fentanyl is so addictive," Loria says.

"As an opioid, it's just one of those things that people can be easily addicted to."

With files from Andrew Brown