Spike in deaths, opioid-related emergencies prompts warning in Edmonton
EDMONTON -- Alberta Health Services has issued a warning about the potent drug carfentanil after a spike in opioid-related emergencies in Edmonton.
There were 16 carfentanil-related deaths in Edmonton in the last week of May and the first week of June.
Between June 1 and 21, 184 opioid-related emergencies were reported.
This is the second warning from AHS in the last two weeks.
"Hopefully this was a horrible flash in the pan that maybe will be settling down but we just don't know that yet," Marliss Taylor with the Street Works needle exchange program told CTV News Edmonton. "We’ve been anxious for alerts to go out so we're really happy that this is happening now."
Street Works revealed the spike in carfentanil in Edmonton on June 17.
"It is worse than anything I've seen in 25 years of working in the downtown core," Taylor said at the time.
She said that it is difficult to know whether this is a one-time spike or if the market will change again once the Canadian-U.S. border reopens.
The province announced an expansion of the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program on Monday, investing $4 million to support Albertans struggling with opioid use.
The program has shown success in reducing the number of overdoses among clients.
For Taylor, it's one part of a larger strategy to help people who use substances.
"We need to make sure that other things are in place such as people having access to naloxone, people knowing the things that they can do to be safer if they do happen to be using substances and don't know what it is that they're taking," she said. "There's lots of things that need to come together in order to keep Edmontonians safer and healthier."
People are encouraged not to use substances alone, to know the signs of an overdose and to have a naloxone kit available. Alberta Health Services also recommends using a smaller dose to test a drug's potency, to use a supervised consumption site and to access treatment and recovery programs.