Pubdate: Tue, 18 Oct 2016
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network
Author: Yolande Cole
Page: A8


It's not enough for police to crack down on drug dealers to combat
Alberta's fentanyl scourge, it will take the efforts of health and
other sectors to combat the crisis, says the provincial justice minister.

"Opioid addiction is not new in Alberta, but fentanyl is particularly
deadly so, in a way, it's sort of brought the problem to the
forefront, which means that we need to work expeditiously to address
that," Kathleen Ganley said Monday.

"It's certainly the case that this needs to be addressed on the
enforcement side, but it also needs to be addressed on other fronts,
so specifically health - ensuring that people have access to
counselling, treatment beds, opioid replacement therapies."

The justice minister made the comments as more than 300 delegates from
law enforcement, corrections, health services and other fields turned
their attention to the potent drug during the first day of a
conference in Calgary.

As part of the conference at police headquarters, attendees are
getting a chance to tour a lab demonstration of how fentanyl powder is
processed into tablets.

Among the items on display at the demonstration Monday morning was a
small vial containing a few grains of sugar. The minuscule amount
would be enough fentanyl to constitute a lethal dose, RCMP Cpl. Eric
Boechler said.

"Two milligrams is the generally accepted lethal dose amount of pure
fentanyl," Boechler said.

"That is such an incredibly small amount that in that vial was a
representation with sugar of just a couple grains to show how
incredibly small two mg actually is. In the realm of somebody who
doesn't have access to that, a business card weighs about a gram, so
about one 500th the weight of a business card by way of volume is the
approximate lethal dose of something like fentanyl."

Boechler also stressed that in the illicit drug market, there are "no
quality controls."

Even if drug traffickers get the mixtures right, it's still possible
to produce product that would be fatal to people on the street, he

In what are known as "hot spots," some pills have a higher
concentration of fentanyl compared with others.

For drug users, there is no way to tell the difference in potency of
each pill.

"Hot spots are tablets that have more than two mg of fentanyl," said
Sgt. Martin Schiavetta with the Calgary Police Service.

"Some of the tablets that we've actually been seizing in Calgary have
ranged from 4.6 to 5.6, which is very high, obviously."

Schiavetta noted there have been cases as recent as this past weekend
in which law enforcement members have attended an accidental overdose
from coming into contact with fentanyl.

Ensuring the safety of first responders is another aim of this week's
conference, he said.

Mike Ellis, justice critic and Conservative MLA for Calgary-West,
called Monday for Alberta to declare a public health crisis and to
create an all-party advisory committee on opioid abuse.

Ganley said declaring a public health emergency gives the government
powers to address a contagious outbreak.

"I think the challenge with a public health emergency is that it gives
the government significant powers ... to do things that might be
necessary if you have a significant outbreak of a contagious disease,
which would not be helpful in this particular instance," she said.
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