'We still need to be vigilant': Saskatoon police believe fatal drug overdose linked to fentanyl

Police in Saskatoon are again warning the public about the dangers of fentanyl.

5 overdoses this weekend; fentanyl believed responsible for 3 cases

Saskatoon police are reporting a fatal fentanyl overdose this past weekend. (Lethbridge Police Service)

This province has recently seen a sharp decrease in overdose deaths related to fentanyl, but that doesn't mean Saskatchewan is free of the deadly opioid.

This past weekend alone, police say three people in Saskatoon overdosed after using fentanyl. One of those people died. 

Saskatoon police Supt. Dave Haye says while the numbers are down, people shouldn't become complacent.

"We still need to be vigilant. We still need to understand that it is a dangerous drug. It is a more potent drug than most people would ever think of using," Haye said.

Experts say the deadly opioid is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Saskatoon police Supt. David Haye says the province needs to remain vigilant to prevent fentanyl deaths.

Overdose numbers falling 

Between 2010 and 2015, there were 41 fentanyl-related deaths in the province. 

According to the coroner's office, 22 people in Saskatchewan died of fentanyl overdoses in 2015. In 2016, the number fell to six. 

This weekend's fentanyl-related death was the first in Saskatoon in 2017.

The raw drug used to make fentanyl is usually shipped from overseas and is pressed into pills elsewhere before making it to Saskatoon, Haye said.

Part of what makes fentanyl so deadly, according to experts and police, is that the potency of fentanyl can vary wildly from one pill to another. That means it's difficult for users to know what they're actually taking.

Haye said the drug can take hold of anyone at any age or from any social class. 

"It's hard to say if it's young people or if it's older people. I think it's like anything else when people suffer from an addiction, and that's what happens to users of fentanyl — they are rolling the dice every time they use it," Haye said. 

Police to get anti-overdose kits 

Haye said it's important for people to understand that while disrupting fentanyl dealers is a top priority, when it comes to responding to overdoses preservation of life is a top priority.

In fact, a new law in Canada now means that witnesses to an overdose are provided immunity from simple possession charges if they call 911 to report.

Police are taking other steps as well, with officers scheduled to be trained in using naloxone kits, an injection or a nasal spray that can revive a person overdosing on opioids. 

Firefighters in Regina and Saskatoon now carry naloxone kits. Take-home kits are also now available in several health regions.