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Addiction expert warns of drugs laced with opioids as 4 young Albertans die of apparent overdoses

Click to play video 'Addiction expert warns of drugs laced with potent opioids as 4 young Albertans die of apparent overdoses' Addiction expert warns of drugs laced with potent opioids as 4 young Albertans die of apparent overdoses
Addiction expert warns of drugs laced with potent opioids as 4 young Albertans die of apparent overdoses – Feb 22, 2021

RCMP are continuing to investigate the deaths of three people in the Drumheller area over the weekend that they suspect to be drug overdoses.

Police believe the drugs involved in the Drumheller deaths may have been contaminated with lethal amounts of opioid-related substances.

Two women in their 20s were part of the community of Drumheller, and one man in his 30s was from nearby Rosedale.

Read more: 3 dead of suspected overdoses in Drumheller, prompting warning from RCMP

Dr. Monty Ghosh, an addictions physician with the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, told Global News a number of factors have led to a disruption in the supply chain of fentanyl coming into the country.

“With the supply changes we’ve seen, there’s a lot of uncertainty with what’s actually being produced and being provided to individuals who are using substances,” Ghosh said.

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“Right now we are seeing more potent forms of fentanyl coming into the market.

“We are seeing carfentanil coming to the market, which is 1,000 times more potent than fentanyl. We’ve seen other agents being mixed in with the drug supply.”

Read more: Red Deer mural honours ‘gentle giant’ who died from accidental overdose

Jay McLean has lived in Drumheller all his life and knew one of the victims for more than 20 years.

“It’s still pretty shocking. The weight of the situation hasn’t fully set in. It’s such a tragedy. There’s no other words for it,” McLean said.

McLean said he knows many people who are suffering with addiction and mental health issues right now, especially with the pandemic and he stresses the importance of naloxone kits.

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“That’s one of your only lines of defense in overdose prevention,” he said. “It helps keep you going until the ambulance gets there, keeps you conscious and keeps you alive.

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“It’s super important. And even if you don’t use drugs and you don’t partake or if you have teenage kids, everyone should have one and everyone should know how to use it because it could save somebody’s life.”

Read more: B.C. reports record number of illicit drug overdoses in 2020

On Monday, RCMP said an 18-year-old from the Piikani First Nation south of Calgary also died on Sunday and they believe it may also be related to a drug overdose.

RCMP said there is no indication that the death is related to the Drumheller deaths but they are once again warning the public that illicit substances can be associated to drugs that may be laced with lethal quantities of opioid-related substances such as fentanyl, carfentanyl or methamphetamines.

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— With files from Carolyn Kury de Castillo

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