There has been a significant increase in fentanyl-related deaths in Saskatchewan since 2010.
According to the information collected by the Office of the Chief Coroner, there have been 41 fentanyl-related deaths in the province from 2010-15. These numbers do not include overdose deaths determined to be suicides.
- Regina woman, 28, arrested for alleged fentanyl theft
- Saskatoon man charged with trafficking fentanyl
They also do not include the nine people in the province who had overdoses related to fake OxyContin.
Here is a breakdown:
- 2015: 11
- 2014: 9
- 2013: 9
- 2012: 7
- 2011: 3
- 2010: 2
Saskatoon is the leading location for fentanyl-related deaths in Saskatchewan from 2013-15:
- 2013: 6
- 2014: 4
- 2015: 5
Alyson Edwards, director of public affairs for the Saskatoon Police Service, said this is an "extremely" important issue.
"Not just deaths, but the number of near-misses, the number of overdoses where fentanyl may have been a factor," Edwards said. "These are all concerns to us because this drug seems to be a drug of choice among young adults and it just won't end well if that continues."
Across the province, the majority of fentanyl-related deaths between 2010-15 have been people between the ages of 20 and 29:
- 10-19: 2
- 20-29: 23
- 30-39: 7
- 40-49: 6
- 50-59: 2
- 70-79: 1
"The level of potency can be different from one pill to another, one batch to another," Edwards said. "So you don't know what you're getting."
In 2015, there was also one death in each Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, RM of Pleasantdale, Rosthern, Weyburn, and Wynyard.
In Regina, there were five drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl from 2013-14. There were no reported fentanyl-related deaths reported in the Queen City in 2015.
Data also suggests the drug is killing far more men than women. In total, 32 men have died of a fentanyl overdose from 2010-15, while nine women were killed using the drug.
Work to stop fentanyl
Edwards said they have been sending out public warnings as often as needed.
"We had some extreme concerns about public safety," she said. "Fentanyl is not something to be taken lightly. It's not something to be taken, period."
- Program involving naloxone kits supported in Sask.
- Joelle Tomlinson shares story of losing brother to fentanyl
British Columbia and Alberta have had far more fentanyl-related deaths than Saskatchewan, and Edwards said that's because of larger populations, but also it's part of the drug's journey to the prairies.
"We believe that the drug is coming from China," she said. "It's ending up in Vancouver — we've done investigations, our drug unit, along with the RCMP in many jurisdictions. And the drugs are being manufactured in Vancouver and then are making their way west."
The Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region told CBC News EMS and emergency departments have not undertaken any additional training to deal with fentanyl. However, they say those workers are already well equipped and trained for managing opiate overdoses.
"Our public health has incorporated the fentanyl challenge into our harm reduction team's daily work, including increasing staff awareness about the drug," a Health Region spokesperson said in a email.