Pubdate: Sun, 12 Feb 2017
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Calgary Sun
Page: 13


The fentanyl crisis in Alberta has been well documented. The harm the
drug is doing to Alberta families, schools and communities has become
a major public issue in the last two years.

It hasn't gone unnoticed by police and political leaders. Alberta's
government has added more treatment beds for addicts and victims of

It has also made sure more emergency overdose treatment kits are
available in police and fire stations, on ambulances, at emergency
departments, even in provincial jails and schools.

The emergency kits are an especially good idea because opioid drugs
can kill not just those who ingest them, but also occasionally first
responders who come into physical contact with overdose victims.

But more - much more - must be done.

In 2016, 343 Albertans died of fentanyl overdoses.

The final three months of last year were particularly

>From October through December, 111 provincial residents succumbed to
the drug. Calgary had the greatest number of fentanyl deaths with 149
in 2016. Edmonton suffered 109. The remaining 85 were fairly evenly
spread around the province.

The 2016 total is up from 257 in 2015 and 117 the year before that.
Last year's fentanyl deaths outnumbered deaths in traffic accidents in
Alberta. They are also nearly double the number of Canadians murdered
with firearms countrywide most years.

And that is just fentanyl deaths. Other opioid pain medications are
being abused, too, and leading to even more deaths.

The situation is still more dire next door in B.C. Last year, there
were over 900 deaths in British Columbia from overdoses involving
illicit drugs.

Fentanyl killed the most, but carfentanil, oxycodone, heroine and
morphine took hundreds of lives, too.

The West Coast totals were nearly 80% above 2015. The human toll is
heartbreaking and staggering.

Before B.C.'s trends invade us over the Rockies, the provincial
government should consider even stronger action to stop the fentanyl

The province needs a coordinated approach to deal with the

It has begun to pull in local leaders and police forces. But it needs
the provincial solicitor general's office to co-ordinate more than
just overlapping police jurisdictions.

Health authorities, overdose treatment experts, pharmacists and
pharmaceutical companies have to be brought in to see where the holes
are in the supply chain and the health care system that are allowing
so many pills to make it into our schoolyards, clubs, workplaces, even
family rumpus rooms.

In the longer term, social workers and mental health counsellors will
be needed, too, to help people with addictions and addictive
psychologies and physiologies to get off opioids - or better yet, to
never get on them in the first place.

But for right now, the immediate priority should be stemming the flow
of drugs into the hands of Albertans who have no prescription for them.

Some get their fixes from sources that start out legal, such as pain
patients, while others get their pills on the black market.

Both sources have to be squeezed to fight this crisis.
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