After a major fentanyl bust in Bonnyville, local RCMP are on high alert as the dangerous drug grows in popularity on the streets.
“Unfortunately there is always a concern,” said Sgt. Sarah Parke with the Bonnyville RCMP. “It is becoming more and more prevalent and we are getting more information on it.”
Over 500 pills of fentanyl were seized when local RCMP raided an illicit drug house in the southeast end of Bonnyville during the early morning hours of Nov. 16. Marijuana, brass knuckles, drug paraphernalia and cash were found with the fentanyl and are estimated to have a combined street value of $25,000.
“We did well to get that off the street but we are not naive to think that is the end of it,” said Parke.
“Unfortunately (fentanyl) is a drug of choice currently and until everybody understands the downside of this drug and how dangerous and fatal it is, it is going to continue to be on the rise.”
Two Bonnyville residents, a 30-year-old male and a 28-year-old female, were arrested during the drug bust and now face a series of charges. Both residents have been charged with possession of fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking, possession of marijuana and child endangerment. The male faces additional charges of possession of cash obtained by crime and possession of a prohibited weapon.
The male appeared in court on Nov. 17 and is schedule to reappear on Dec. 1, while the female’s first court appearance is set for Nov. 24.
Bonnyville’s not alone in this problem. Fentanyl, a strong medicine made from opioids, has become increasingly popular on the streets throughout the entire province over the last few years. The drug, which can appear as a pill or a powder, can come in doses approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 20 times stronger than oxycodone.
In 2014 fentanyl contributed to, or caused more than 100 deaths in Alberta, which is a significant rise from the six deaths attributed to the drug in 2011.
“What we are seeing is the tragic reality of street drugs,” says Dr. Mark Yarema, Medical Director of Alberta’s Poison and Drug Information Service (PADIS). “Simply, there is no such thing as a safe street drug; there is no safe dose; and no one is immune to the risk.”
So far the bust last week is the only specific incident in the Lakeland where a sizable amount of fentanyl has been seized.
While nothing has been collected in the city, Cold Lake S/Sgt. Jeremie Landry says the drug is on his detachment’s radar and members are proactively looking for it.
“We do believe that fentanyl is in the City of Cold Lake,” said Landry. “The detachment along with our general investigation section is committed to investigating it, as we know the dangers that this drug can cause and the havoc it can create within the community.”
On the street fentanyl has a variety of nicknames such as, beans, green apples, eighties, or greenies. The dangers of the drug come when dealers sell it under different names, or mix it with other substances.
“There is not great quality control, so people might think they are getting oxycodone and they get fentanyl instead and end up with problems,” said Dr. Ryan Chaung, of PADIS. “We have definitely been seeing more patients coming to the hospitals with fentanyl overdoses.”
Signs of fentanyl poising include sleepiness, trouble breathing, cold, clammy skin and unresponsiveness to pain or a person’s voice. The most dangerous effect of fentanyl is that it can cause the user to stop breathing, which often leads to death.
“No matter what you think you’re buying, when it comes to street drugs, you really don’t ever know what you’re getting,” said Yarema.