Calgary

Fentanyl deaths could reach 300 in Alberta by year's end, police warn

Alberta could see 300 deaths from fentanyl by year's end if current trends surrounding the recreational use of the powerful opiate continue, a senior police officer warned the Calgary Police Commission Tuesday.

Calgary police sounding the alarm over 'public health crisis' related to street use of pain drug

Alberta could see 300 deaths from fentanyl by year's end if current trends surrounding the recreational use of the powerful opiate continue, a senior police officer warned the Calgary Police Commission Tuesday.

Describing the problem as a "public health crisis," Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta told commission members the response needs to go beyond just law enforcement.

"We're not just going to arrest our way out of it," he said.

The supply side of fentanyl is simply too abundant to tackle head-on, so police are focusing their efforts on the demand side of the drug though public education and awareness efforts aimed at decreasing use, Schiavatta told the commission, which oversees the Calgary Police Service.

Fentanyl has been linked to 145 deaths in Alberta between January and June, and Schiavetta said it's conceivable the death toll could reach 300 by the end of 2015.

Calgary saw 45 of those 145 deaths, he noted, marking a major increase from the 12 fentanyl-related fatalities recorded in the city in all of 2014.

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