Nova Scotia

Fears of fentanyl rise as summer music festival season nears

The Ally Centre of Cape Breton is concerned about recreational drug users after hearing of fentanyl-laced cocaine in the area.

Ally Centre of Cape Breton concerned about recreational drug users after hearing of fentanyl-laced cocaine

A booth at Evolve Music Festival advertises free drug testing. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

The director of a centre that runs a needle exchange program and medical clinic in Sydney, N.S., says she's worried after hearing reports that fentanyl was found in cocaine in the area.

Christine Porter, the executive director of the Ally Centre of Cape Breton, said there were six non-fatal overdoses in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in one weekend earlier this month.

"These things that we are hearing are anecdotal, they are from the street," she said. "We are hearing it could very well be fentanyl-related, we're hearing that it is in cocaine."

The Nova Scotia Health Authority confirmed there were three people treated for overdoses over the first weekend in June.

Cape Breton Regional Police said they were not called to or involved in any overdose-related incidents over that weekend. Police also said in order to confirm the presence of fentanyl in a person's system, they would require a toxicology report, which comes through an autopsy.

Concern for recreational drug users

Porter said up until now in Cape Breton, she has only heard of fentanyl being found in opioids. Now that cocaine is believed to have been laced as well, Porter said she is concerned not only for intravenous drug users, but for recreational drug users as well.

She worries about young people attending weekend music festivals.

"You know, recreational drug use is pretty much considered to be the norm [at festivals such as Evolve]. My fear is that fentanyl will be on the scene," she said.

Christine Porter is director of the Ally Centre in Sydney, N.S. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Jonas Colter, the executive producer of Evolve Music Festival, said the severity of the opioid crisis has "put a fear in me." 

The music festival near Moncton, N.B., replaced its volunteer paramedics with a professional company called Maritime Paramedic Services.

"People who are up to speed on what's happening, especially with the opioid crisis and the fentanyl epidemic that's happening in North America at this time."

Paramedics around the clock

Colter says the paramedics will be working 24 hours a day and naloxone kits will be available on site. He said organizers of other smaller festivals who may not have budgets for professional paramedics are trained to use naloxone.

Evolve's executive producer Jonas Colter says the festival has replaced its volunteer paramedics with a professional company called Maritime Paramedic Services. (CBC)

"The people that go to these festivals have kind of taken it into their own hands," he said. "They also know that it is imperative to be taking care of one another."

Colter said he is also working with Health Canada to warn of the dangers and educate staff and festival goers on how to identify an overdose.


Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith was born and raised in Cape Breton. She began her career in private radio in Sydney and has been with CBC as a reporter, early morning news editor and sometimes host since 1990.