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Killer drug linked to 100 Alberta deaths last year: RCMP

A steep rise in the number of fatal overdoses attributed to fentanyl is alarming police and health officials in Alberta.

Fentanyl often sold as OxyContin on the streets, can be 20 times more potent.

Danny Schulz died after an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2014. His parents believe Danny thought he was taking OxyContin. (CBC)

A steep rise in the number of fatal overdoses attributed to fentanyl is alarming police and health officials in Alberta.

According to RCMP, fentanyl contributed to or caused more than 100 deaths last year, a significant increase from six deaths in 2011.

One of those people was Danny Schulz, 25.

"He didn't want to bring this upon himself," said his father Rick Schulz. "He didn't want to die at the time that he did, he just wanted one more hit." 

Danny Schulz loved cooking, old cars and songwriting but he also struggled with drug use. 

He was trying to get his life back on track, his father said, but in April 2014, he relapsed and died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl.

"We knew our son had died of an accidental overdose, but when we heard about the fentanyl, it really felt like our son had been deliberately poisoned," said his mother Petra Schulz.

"We are very sure that he was thinking he was taking OxyContin," his father said. 

Fentanyl is often sold as OxyContin on the streets even though it can be 20 times as potent.

“While fentanyl is not a new drug of abuse, what we are seeing is the tragic reality of street drugs,” says Dr. Mark Yarema, medical director of Alberta’s Poison and Drug Information Service, in a news release.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller that comes in pills or powder, is often referred to as “greenies” on the street.

Police said they have been seizing record amounts of fentanyl in communities across Alberta, including 10,000 tablets in Grande Prairie last fall and  60,000 tablets west of Calgary in November

RCMP blame organized crime and "clandestine laboratories" with the growth of fentanyl on the streets.

But what exactly ends up in the pills is anyone's guess.

Yarema said in some recent fentanyl cases, drugs such as a veterinary medicine used on animals during castration procedures have been found in the victim's blood, Yarema said.

“No matter what you think you’re buying, when it comes to street drugs, you really don’t ever know what you’re getting,” he said.

Deaths attributed to fentanyl
YearEdmontonAlberta
201136
2012729
20131266
201438120

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