New numbers from police suggest the amount of black market fentanyl being bought and sold on the streets of Waterloo region has risen sharply in the last year. 

Fentanyl, a highly potent painkiller up to 100 times more powerful than heroin, has been blamed in hundreds of accidental overdose deaths from Ontario to BC. 

In one year, instances where local police confiscated the deadly drug have risen 575 per cent. 

In 2015, Waterloo Regional Police officers made only 12 seizures of illegal fentanyl, which included six fentanyl patches and six powdered seizures, weighing approximately two grams each. 

In 2016, those numbers rose sharply, with at least 69 instances where police took the deadly narcotic off the streets, and another 15 instances where an unknown substance is still awaiting lab confirmation. 

Carfentanil

Adding even small amounts of powerful opioid narcotic powders such as fentanyl into other street drugs can deliver a more powerful high, but can also produce deadly consequences. (Canadian Border Services)

Growing illicit trade

Of those, two fentanyl patches were seized, and officers confiscated the drug in powdered form 67 times, adding up to a total weight of 621 grams. 

The numbers obtained by CBC News from the Waterloo Regional Police Service suggest the illicit trade of the drug continues to proliferate locally, even as officials install new measures to control its spread. 

In 2015, the province instituted a fentanyl patch-for-patch exchange program in an effort to help doctors and pharmacists control the use of the drug. 

Naloxone kit

Pharmacists in Ontario are able to hand out naloxone kits. There is usually two vials of the drug that are injectable with a syringe. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

Last summer, the province announced it would stop subsidizing fentanyl, along with a number of other highly potent opioid painkillers, for people on income support in an effort to curb addiction. 

The province also announced it would start paying for nalaxone, an antidote medication capable of reversing the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose, distributing the kits for free to newly-released inmates and frontline medical workers. 

The Chief Coroner of Ontario reports that fentanyl was involved in 165 deaths in 2015, a slight rise from 154 deaths in 2014, but a marked increase from the 86 deaths recorded in 2010.

with files from Kate Bueckert