LETHBRIDGE - Until recently, the highly potent tranquilizer carfentanil had not made an appearence in any drug busts or seizures in Lethbridge.
This week that changed, after samples from a bag of powder taken by police from a bust on July 31, tested positive for it.
Carfentanil, according to Alberta Health Services, is used to sedate large animals, like farm animals, elephants and deer or moose. Because it is so potent, veterinarians who use carfentanil need to wear protective clothing like gloves and face shields, when administering the drug. It is 100x more potent than fentanyl. 20 micrograms of the drug - less than a grain of salt - can kill a human.
Staff Sgt. Jason Walper with ALERT Lethbridge, says just like with any street drug, the user doesn't know what they're taking.
"The end user has no idea what they're ingesting and drugs containing carfentanil significantly increase the risks of overdose and death."
So far in 2017, there have been 34 deaths linked to carfentanil in Alberta. In the south health zone, AHS says there have been 11 deaths so far linked to fentanyl, but none linked to carfentanil.
Still, the same statistics also show that the rate of ER visits in the south zone related to opioid use and misuse is the highest in the province, with 226.6 visits per 100,000 person years; or about 25 per cent higher than the provincial average.
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