Calgary

Fentanyl a growing, deadly street-drug problem, officials warn

Calgary police and Alberta health officials are raising awareness about the growing threat of a dangerous street drug.

Calgary police, health officials trying to raise awareness about dangerous synthetic painkiller

Calgary police and health officials are teaming up to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl, which is becoming a more common street drug. (CBC)

Calgary police and Alberta health officials are raising awareness about the growing threat of a dangerous street drug.

Fentanyl — a painkiller 100 times more potent than morphine — was a factor in 29 deaths in Calgary last year, officials say.

“Fentanyl is not a new drug of abuse. What we are seeing is the tragic reality of street drugs,” said emergency physician Dr. Mark Yarema in a release.

“Simply put, there is no such thing as a safe street drug. There is no safe dose and, no one is immune to the risk," said Yarema, who is also the medical director of Alberta’s Poison and Drug Information Service (PADIS)

Fentanyl is often passed off by dealers as OxyContin. The synthetic opioid painkiller, which comes in pills, powder or even prescription patches, is often referred to as “greenies," "green beans,"  "shady 80s" and other nicknames on the street.

13 fetanyl seizures

From January to March 10, police in Calgary have seized fentanyl on 13 occasions, including one raid that turned up almost 12,000 pills.

“We continually see the rise and fall of various drug trends. Whether it’s PMMA, cocaine, methamphetamine or any opioids, the message remains the same — there is no such thing as a safe street drug,” said drug unit staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta in a release.

Early signs of fentanyl poisoning include severe sleepiness, trouble breathing, cold, clammy skin and unresponsiveness to pain.

In several recent fentanyl cases, patients were found to have many other drugs in their blood, including medicine used on animals by veterinarians during castration procedures, officials say.

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

Albertans can call the 24-hour help line at 1-800-332-1414 for confidential consultation with staff trained in the assessment of exposures to drugs, including fentanyl. 

now