WINNIPEG – The incredibly toxic drug carfentanil has indeed hit the streets of Winnipeg.
Police have confirmed that blotter tabs seized from a hotel room two weeks ago did contain the powerful opioid.
They warn that the drug, initially developed as an elephant tranquilizer, is 10,000 times more toxic than morphine and is part of what seems to be an influx of strong opioids on our streets.
“When we look at trends, you can usually see the wave coming. We’ve been inundated with news out of places like Vancouver and now Alberta,” explains Deputy Chief Danny Smyth. “Our trafficking streams, if you will, they tend to come up from the states but then they travel from west to east. We’re not surprised by this trend.”
It is certainly an alarming trend, and one that took the life of Arlene Last-Kolb’s son Jessie two years ago. At the age of 24, he suffered a fatal fentanyl overdose, and his mom has been studying up on the drug ever since.
“This was a world that my family was not prepared for or knew anything about. I have been working for two years to bring awareness to this epidemic,” she says. “I’m here to tell the community that uses drugs to get their naloxone kits. I urge parents and schools to ask our police services to come to our schools and educate our teachers, parents and children that drugs are not what they used to be.”
Naloxone is the antidote required to revive a victim of poisoning due to the strong opioids. Paramedics have started to carry the kits, but Last-Kolb would like to see more of them readily available.
“Another thing that concerns me is that they need to be out in rural Manitoba, where we can’t get people help with first-responders right away. You can at least save somebody’s life with a naloxone kit. So I think it’s very, very important these kits get out to all of Manitoba.”
She would also like to see something called the ‘Good Samaritan Law,’ so that what happened to her son won’t happen to other people’s children.
“It allows, if somebody has an overdose, for the people that are with them to call for help and not have to worry about repercussions. They didn’t call an ambulance right away. He was only a minute from a hospital. They took the phones, took the drugs, took the money, and then called from another home. They knew enough not even to use their own phone.”
For those that inject opioids, naloxone kits and overdose response training are available from the Street Connections program on Hargrave Street. They can also be purchased without a prescription from pharmacies, but they are not obligated to carry them and are able to set their own price.