Pubdate: Tue, 14 Feb 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte
Page: A5


Edmonton is battling a new drug overdose crisis that simply doesn't
fit any standard assumptions, council members were told Monday.

Only 20 per cent of the overdose deaths from fentanyl last year were
in core neighbourhoods. Young men in the suburbs are actually at a
much higher risk, said city officials.

"This has gone beyond being an inner-city issue," said Mayor Don
Iveson, adding those dying most often from illicit fentanyl and
prescription opioid painkillers are taking them alone at home where no
one is available to help when things go wrong.

About half of the people who died from a fentanyl or other
opioid-related overdoses during the first three-quarters of 2016 had a
doctor's prescription for an opioid painkiller within the last 30
days, according to Alberta Health statistics.

These are "not … party drugs," said Coun. Scott McKeen, saying the
issue is more closely tied to mental health, addiction and chronic
pain issues. "They're used by people who are self-medicating some
underlying issue."

Council's community services committee received an update from staff
Monday, outlining their response to the growing number of deaths from
illicit fentanyl and prescribed opioids.

Last week, Alberta Health reported fentanyl was a factor in 109
overdose deaths in Edmonton last year. There is a sunny simplicity to
the official portrait of former premier Dave Hancock, unveiled with
great ceremony Monday at the legislature.

Deputy police chief Brian Simpson said his team watches developments
in Vancouver closely, because whatever happens there is likely to hit
Calgary next and then Edmonton.

The numbers here are trending upward, with fire services responding to
812 related calls in 2016. That's roughly what Vancouver gets on a
monthly basis, fire Chief Ken Block said.

The province is still working to release final numbers on total deaths
related to opioids, which include a set of highly addictive
painkillers prescribed legally in doctors' offices.

As of October last year, more Edmonton residents were dying of
non-fentanyl opioid drugs, such as morphine and Oxycodone, than
fentanyl smuggled in from China. But fentanyl-related deaths were on
the rise.

Simpson said police officers are now finding fentanyl cut into many
illicit drugs, including heroin, meth and cocaine.

"There's a higher profit margin in using fentanyl," Simpson said,
adding police have found cases where dealers did not know their drugs
were compromised.

Edmonton police have had two cases where carfentanil, a drug many
times more potent, was involved. They've had to buy specialized
equipment that can identify the drugs without requiring an officer to
handle it, since fentanyl and carfentanil can be absorbed through the

They've also distributed nasal spray kits of naloxone in case police
officers accidentally come into contact with the drug. Simpson said
Calgary police are investigating what to do with vehicles contaminated
with carfentanil. It's more costly to clean them than to dispose of
them, but they need to be treated like hazardous waste.

Naloxone kits are now also available without a prescription from 281
pharmacies in Edmonton.

Edmonton is also working to set up four supervised drug use sites at
existing facilities in the inner core. Public consultation on that is
starting at the end of this month, with a report due back at council
June 5.

Iveson said success there could lead to other facilities across the

"We need to make support services for people struggling with these
addictions more widespread, not harder to find," he said. "But I'd
rather see those in a supportive housing context ultimately than in a
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