Alberta is reporting a slight decline in opioid deaths, however, the hard hit province is still set to report the worst year on record.
Between June and July, 242 people died from opioids including the deadly-synthetic variants fentanyl and carfentanil. The number was 5% less than the 254 deaths reported over the same period last year.
Despite the latest numbers, Alberta saw a grim 720 deaths in the first seven months of 2021, over 100 more deaths than reported in 2020 for those months.
In 2020, 1,316 people died from opioid fatalities. 2021 is expected to be even worse.
“What I’m hearing on the streets is there’s a huge carfentanil issue in Edmonton – there’s a lot of organized crime around carfentanil,” internal medicine and addictions physician Dr. Monty Gosh told the Calgary Herald.
“We clearly need more resources in Edmonton – harm reduction, treatment, agonists (replacement drugs).”
Fentanyl and its cousin carfentanil are extremely deadly synthetic opioids that can be up to 4,000 times more potent than heroin.
“Carfentanil is one of the most toxic opioids currently known, with studies showing it to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine, 4,000 times more potent than heroin, and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. In humans, a dose as small as 1 microgram is enough to elicit a response to the drug and about 20 micrograms, which is less than a grain of salt, is enough to be fatal,” an Alberta Health Services backgrounder states.
Throughout Canada, numerous provinces have seen a surge in opioid deaths over the span of the pandemic. In 2020, Ontario saw an increase of 38% opioid deaths.
A report by the Public Health Agency of Canada raised the alarm about opioid death rates during the pandemic.
“Jurisdictions across the country have reported increases in overdose deaths and non-fatal harms related to opioids and other substances, in part due to increasing toxicity of the illegal drug supply since the start of the pandemic,” said the report.