Nova Scotia

Fentanyl antidote key to preventing Nova Scotia deaths, says activist

The president of the grassroots organization Get Prescription Drugs Off the Street says Nova Scotia must be prepared to deal with fentanyl being sold on Nova Scotia streets, including overdose prevention.

Border services intercepted package with 514 grams of acetyl fentanyl

Amy Graves’ brother died after overdosing on drugs. She's formed an organization to help keep prescription drugs off the streets. (CBC)

The president of the grassroots organization Get Prescription Drugs Off the Street says she isn't surprised to hear that the powerful opioid acetyl fentanyl has arrived in Nova Scotia. 

"B.C. and Alberta have been hit pretty hard. Even Saskatchewan has seen dramatic increases of deaths and trafficking in fentanyl. And I figured it was just a matter of time before it reached Nova Scotia," Amy Graves said.

She was responding to the news that a Halifax man has been arrested and charged with trying to import the drug from Vancouver.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid drug commonly used for long-term pain management. It's consumed via patch, pill or powder.

Graves said she recommends better distribution and awareness of an antidote called Naloxone, which doctors say is effective within minutes. Graves says Naloxone is inexpensive at $12 a dose. 

'Too scared to call for help'

"At the very least, get it out to people who are harmfully involved and who we know are using these medications, and I think in the long run it should be available over the counter and at the pharmacists, and ...without a prescription. Because a lot of the time people are too scared to call for help because they're afraid to get in trouble," she said. 

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid drug commonly used for long-term pain management. It's consumed via patch, pill or powder.

Graves formed the organization after her brother, Joshua Graves, died of an overdose in 2011 after mixing Dilaudid and alcohol at a party in Berwick.

Canada Border Services Agency officers in Vancouver intercepted a package bound for a Halifax home in July, the agency announced Tuesday. They say the package contained 514 grams of acetyl fentanyl.

The agency contacted Nova Scotia RCMP. They searched the Halifax destination on Aug. 7 and arrested a 54-year-old man.

He faces charges of importing a controlled substance. He's due in court Sept. 24.

"We're trying to stay in front of this, get ahead of it before it arrives and it's out of hand. But at least, what we know now is this appears to be the first instance of this in Nova Scotia," said RCMP Cpl. Ken Boone. 

'Highly addictive'

Boone said he's not aware of any other incidents involving fentanyl in the province. Police believe the fentanyl was imported to be sold, possibly after being mixed with other drugs. 

"Our belief is that it would probably have been divided and added to other agents," he said.

"It is highly addictive, highly potent. It is between 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, and at least 20 times the potency of heroin." 

The drug has been linked to many high-profile deaths recently, including a Vancouver teenager and a North Vancouver couple

With files from the CBC's Shaina Luck


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