Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Death Drugs

"Submit a cocaine sample, it's got fentanyl in it. Submit a heroin sample it's got fentanyl in it. Submit what we thought was Ecstasy, it's got fentanyl in it. Submit Percocets, it's got fentanyl in it. Submit methamphetamines, it's got fentanyl in it."
"That's what we're telling people: You think you're getting one [drug], there's no guarantee, there's no control system, it's an unknown."
"The difficulty is trying to say this person, unfortunately, passed away as a result of this drug. Well, where did that come from?"
"People think, 'I'm at a party with my friends and it's my friend who gave it to me so it should be OK', but you have no idea where they got it from either."
Staff Sgt. Rick Carey, Ottawa Police drug squad
Vancouver firefighters Jason Lynch and Jay Jakubec try to revive an addict who has already had two doses of Narcan after overdosing on fentanyl in Vancouver’s downtown eastside.
Vancouver firefighters Jason Lynch and Jay Jakubec try to revive an addict who has already had two doses of Narcan after overdosing on fentanyl in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. (CBC)

The Coroner's Service of British Columbia has reported that since the arrival of fentanyl on the scene, the death toll in that province has been elevated to 914 documented overdose deaths for the year 2016, representing a figure that exceeds the overdose death statistics for 2015 by 80%. British Columbia's problems with this laboratory-created chemical opioid leads the nation, but other provinces are realizing high death figures due to opioid overdoses as well.

Older people are viewed as likelier to use opioids that have been prescribed for pain. Their risks increase if they mix those drugs with alcohol. But what has really raised the alarm stakes is not only the drug users on the street who have been overdosing in records numbers resulting from the street drugs they use which have been adulterated with cheaper 'fillers' -- primarily fentanyl, a far more powerful drug, 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine -- is that teens have now begun to die from fentanyl overdoses.

No one is, at this time, ignorant of the fact that fentanyl is hugely dangerous, that it shows up regularly in unknown quantities in drugs sold as being known substances. No one using these drugs doesn't know of the growing number of fatalities due to overdoses. But they are propelled by their addiction and their self-assurance that these fatalities occur to others, nothing untoward will happen to them; the world they inhabit is absent of concern.

Ottawa police several days after the deaths of two teens in that city, conducted the largest fentanyl seizure yet, along with arrests of a dozen people. What that translates to is a temporary plug in a flood of illicit drugs reaching an eager and easy market. The known antidote to these overdoses, nalaxone, has been made available through the Province of Ontario in a kit, made available at drugstores free of charge to anyone wanting to become proactive among the general public or within the drug-using community.

Fentanyl, primarily sourced through the Internet from China (China has just recently placed fentanyl on its proscribed list of drugs), is popular with organized crime groups in Canada for the creation of their illicit products, irresistible to those addicted to pain killers. There are also local labs producing fentanyl. At this point, fentanyl is a known and dangerous substance circulating widely, damaging peoples' lives and creating fear among parents of teens.

The eventual, inevitable introduction of its more powerful cousin carfentanil, meant for the control of large animals like elephants, brings shudders of apprehension to the minds of those having to deal with this disastrous turn of events.

Of course, parents and users can always seek help. Say, from addiction counselling services. In Canada, unfortunately, it is an unregulated field. Anyone, irrespective of their backgrounds, can claim themselves to be a reliable counsellor in addictive behaviour. And that concerns Crystal Smalldon, executive director of the Canadian Addiction Counsellor Certification Federation.

"All you have to say is, 'I'm an addiction counsellor' and people believe you. You could go hang up a sign on Bank Street and the next day you could probably see ten people a day at $200 a pop. We regulate taxi drivers. We regulate hairdressers. We don't regulate addiction counsellors. It makes no sense. If you have $25,000 you could get treatment right now. But the problem is, you don't know who's doing the treating. You can pay the money and send your daughter to any facility that has a bed for a teenager right now, but if you walk in you just trust they know what they're doing", she argued.

Coincidentally, a substance-abuse counsellor in California was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in California, She had pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and two drunken driving counts. Sherri Lynn Wilkins hit and killed a 31-year-old man, driving with his body embedded in the windshield of her vehicle, his upper body faced down on the hood of her car until other drivers stopped her.

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