Pubdate: Thu, 09 Feb 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Shawn Logan


'These people aren't going out there to die,' enforcement unit officer

The victims of fentanyl, which saw its deadly toll reach new highs in
2016, rarely fit the stereotypes people sometimes imagine, advocates

"We're not concerned because we don't believe it can impact us in any
way - but these are soccer moms and accountants and lawyers," said
Rosalind Davis, whose partner Nathan Huggins-Rosenthal held an MBA and
was a stockbroker when he became addicted to the opioid that
ultimately killed him.

Today, Huggins-Rosenthal is a statistic. One of at least 717 Albertans
who've lost their lives to fentanyl since the beginning of 2014.

Davis, who founded the Alberta Changing the Face of Addiction
Foundation, said she believes the stigma of addiction and mental
health has minimized the deaths of Huggins-Rosenthal and so many more
who went down the same road, not knowing the final cost would be death.

"If you look at having a death a day as a low priority, you have to
question the stigma," Davis said, a day after the province released
new numbers showing 343 people died from fentanyl overdoses last year.

"We know what the solutions are - the solutions lie in harm reduction
(safe consumption sites) and getting people into opioid replacement

"It's not expensive. What is expensive, is not doing

Statistics released by the province show nearly nine in 10 of those
who died from fentanyl overdoses in 2016 lived in Alberta's larger
urban centres. Of those who died in Calgary and Edmonton, 261 and 216
respectively, only a quarter were deemed to have no fixed address.

Rory McCann was 19 years old and had just packed his bags for a family
trip to Mexico when he became one of the 257 lives claimed by fentanyl
in 2015.

Sparla McCann said her son had a lengthy battle with cocaine addiction
and his autopsy found high levels of the drug in his system when he
died. But it was the fentanyl, which the mom believes Rory would have
had no idea he was ingesting, that killed him.

"I'm sick to my stomach over it," said McCann of the latest numbers of
fentanyl victims.

"They're leaving behind families, moms, dads, sisters and brothers.
They might think they're out for just a good time and all of a sudden
you end up dead."

Next month McCann will hold the third Gone Too Soon silent auction
fundraiser in Rory's honour, raising money for Renfrew Recovery
Centre, an addictions treatment facility that's struggled to keep up
with the ravages of opioid addiction.

But McCann said no amount of fundraisers, one-off government
announcements or street arrests will end the problem. She said there
needs to be a concerted effort between the province, federal
government, health agencies and law enforcement to find a solution.

Calgary police Staff Sgt. Mark Hatchette, in charge of the force's
strategic enforcement unit, said it's not unusual that McCann's son
had a cocktail of drugs in his system when he died.

"I think it's very safe to say that no matter what type of drug you
purchase on the street, it will contain at least some fentanyl," he

"It's accessible and cheap and it's used as a cutting agent in almost
everything except for marijuana."

Over the first three months of 2016, seizures of illicit drugs saw
significant increases across the board, with fentanyl (65.3 per cent),
heroin (63.6 per cent) and methamphetamine (67.6 per cent) marking the
biggest jumps over the previous year.

And accompanying the boom in street drugs is a spike in what Hatchette
calls "collateral crime," with a marked rise in break-and-enters,
vehicle thefts and robberies often tracking back to the drug trade.

"It's a whole different ball game. We see the fentanyl crisis as not
only a public safety risk but a risk to officers as well," he said.

"These people aren't going out there to die. A lot of them are addicts
- - this is a social disorder and sickness issue."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt