Young man paralyzed after overdose warns students as fentanyl deaths climb in Alberta

Breathing through a tube in his neck and sitting in a wheelchair, 20-year-old Trez Anderson addressed a crowd of mostly parents at Tom Baines School in northwest Calgary on Thursday, warning them of the dangers of fentanyl.

Parents and students gather at Calgary school to learn and hear stories of death and overdose

Trez Anderson uses a wheelchair and breathes through a tube after he unknowingly overdosed on fentanyl when he was 18. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Breathing through a tube in his neck and sitting in a wheelchair, 20-year-old Trez Anderson addressed a crowd of mostly parents at Tom Baines School in northwest Calgary on Thursday, warning them of the dangers of fentanyl.

"I got it given to me because I thought it was meth," he said of the drug that claimed his mobility and his normal breathing when he was 18. 

The warning comes as deaths continue to climb in Alberta — particularly in Calgary. 

In 2016, 149 people died of a fentanyl-related overdose in the city, most of them outside the downtown core that many would associate with nefarious street drugs. That death rate is 38 per cent higher than in Edmonton. 

In total, Alberta lost 343 people to the drug last year. 

"Oh it's increased a lot yeah, it's pretty insane," said Anderson.

Loss and lessons

The event, organized by two mothers who lost their sons to the drug, was an eyeopener for some young people at the event, who said they didn't know much about drugs prior to attending. 

"There are kind of just drugs just everywhere, it's like, not as rare as I thought it was," said junior-high student Lucy Feng of her impression.

For Ella Ren, another student, the nature of addiction and its consequences were what struck her, as she listened to the two mothers talk about losing their sons. 

"If you're doing drugs, it's not just affecting you, but it also affects the people who care about you as well," she said. 

Anderson said he just wants to get the word out so that others learn about the dangers of fentanyl before it's too late.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said 138 people died of a fentanyl-related overdose in Calgary in 2016. That was incorrect.
    Mar 03, 2017 2:06 PM MT