HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html The War On Deadly Opioids
Pubdate: Wed, 19 Apr 2017
Source: St. Albert Gazette (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Great West Newspapers
Contact: http://www.stalbertgazette.com/section/sag0999
Website: http://www.stalbertgazette.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2919
Author: Jennifer Henderson
Page: 24

THE WAR ON DEADLY OPIOIDS

How drug units deal with fentanyl

The death toll for fentanyl continues to rise in 2017, with nearly
double the number of deaths being reported in the first six weeks of
the year.

According to Health Canada, from Jan. 1 to Feb, 11, 51 people died
from overdosing on fentanyl. In 2016 during the same six weeks, 28
Albertans died as a result of a fentanyl overdose.

The drug was first found in St. Albert in 2014 and since then the St.
Albert RCMP's drug unit said that currently there is at least one pill
found in around 80 per cent of their overall drug cases.

When the drug was first found in 2014, around 200 fentanyl pills
disguised as OxyContin were seized from a home. Although the drug unit
hasn't seized that amount of pills since, they are finding smaller
amounts of the pills more frequently during their drug seizures.

In December of last year an even stronger opioid was found in the
city. A drug bust turned up pills that looked like OxyContin but after
sending the drugs away for testing, it turns out it was the deadly
opioid carfentanil. Since then, a second seizure of carfentail has
been made in St. Albert.

Fentanyl is the prescription painkiller that is 100 times stronger
than morphine and carfentanil is an opiate 100 times stronger than
fentanyl. It takes just two milligrams of pure fentanyl, about the
size of four grains of salt, to kill an average sized adult.

Cpl. Brad McIntosh, a member of the K-Division Clandestine Lab
Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) team said that the power of the drug
has forced first responders to change how they handle any drug related
situation.

"Fentanyl and toxic opioids have been a huge game changer in how first
responders deal with anything that could be drug related because
fentanyl and its analogs have been found in cocaine, in
methamphetamine, in ecstasy and in heroin. Even if you think you are
dealing with one of those items the reality is that it takes your
response protection equipment to the maximum."

McIntosh is a member of the CLEAR team, which specializes in
responding to situations where illegal synthetic drug production or
processing is suspected. They will deal with fentanyl and other toxic
opioid pill presses and contaminated scenes along with any drug
seizures that are believed to contain opioids.

The team has six dedicated positions that work out of the Edmonton
K-Division office and respond to calls throughout Alberta and in
Yellowknife and will sometimes assist in situations in B.C. They work
along with 40 other police officers trained across the province who
are able to assist in situations where the CLEAR team needs to be called.

In the past three years the St. Albert detachment has had to call the
CLEAR team twice to assist with a drug situation. Overall McIntosh
said that their call volume across Alberta has approximately doubled
in the last two years.

Sometimes the CLEAR team will assist remotely in something as simple
as providing guidance on the personal protective gear the local
detachment should be wearing in the situation. Other times the team
will come in wearing a fully encapsulated suit and contained breathing
apparatus to help seize a pill press or enter a room with powder in
the air.

"It's kind of a case by case thing and not a blanket approach, but
there are certain things that are going to bring us to a location
rather than just provide phone advice," McIntosh said.

The CLEAR team will typically enter a situation when the local
detachment doesn't have the knowledge or the equipment to proceed on
their own. If there is a container of chemicals giving off a gas or if
the scene has containers of unknown liquids, the CLEAR team will enter
the scene. Sometimes they will assist the local detachment with taking
samples to send away for testing.

Usually the team doesn't know exactly what type of drugs they are
dealing with until the drugs are sent away to Health Canada for
testing, so both the local detachment and the CLEAR team have to treat
every situation as potentially dangerous.

"We can't afford not to think that way," McIntosh said. "We can't
assume that something that looks like cocaine is cocaine alone. We are
assuming everything is harmful now."

McIntosh said that the deadly drugs are getting into Canada from
China. Drug dealers are ordering the potent drug through the Internet
and it is being delivered to their doorstep through the mail system.

McIntosh said that this is revolutionizing the selling of drugs. The
drug is so strong that only a small amount needs to be imported and it
is not necessary to make a personal connection with a drug trafficker.
It can all be done anonymously online.

Once the drug is in Canada, drug dealers are diluting the strength and
selling it.

Typically in St. Albert the drugs are found as small green pills
disguised as OxyContin, but they have been found in other formats as
well. The CLEAR team has found the drug mixed in with many other drugs
and alone in both powder and pill formats.

Const. Devron Dittmer from the St. Albert drug unit said that any time
the unit is responding to a situation with drugs, they will have EMS
on standby in case of an accidental opioid ingestion. Although neither
the St. Albert drug unit nor the CLEAR team have had to use the opioid
antidote Naloxone, they carry it on them in case of
emergencies.

After the drugs are found during a seizure, they need to be sent away
to Health Canada for testing. To proceed with any court case, drugs
need to be tested to certify what type of substance is found. Samples
are taken, packaged and labelled very carefully, so as not to risk
contaminating anyone handling them down the line.

After the case has wrapped up in court, the drugs are then sent back
to the CLEAR team to be safely disposed of.

For more information on fentanyl visit fentanylsafety.com. Anonymous
tips can be provided to the drug tip line at 780-460-3784 (DRUG).
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MAP posted-by: Matt