If you need help
There are many reasons someone may want help with their substance use, and many ways to be helped. Help doesn’t mean you have to stop using if that is not your goal. You don’t have to be addicted to opioids, or any substances, to think about getting help.
- Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose, including fentanyl. You don’t need a prescription and it’s free at sites across Alberta. Find a naloxone kit near you.
- When you receive your kit, you will receive instructions on:
- what overdose signs to look for
- how to safely inject the life-saving drug with a syringe
- seeking emergency help after the injection
The Chief Medical Officer of Health is leading the response to the opioid crisis and is working closely with:
- health experts
- community groups
- parent advocates
- people who have used or continue to use opioids or drugs
- law enforcement
- the medical community
- other Alberta government ministries
Opioid surveillance quarterly reports
Quarterly reports are used to assess not only fentanyl misuse, but the use/misuse of opioids and narcotics in Alberta through existing public health surveillance.
- Q2 report: April - June 2017
- Q1 report: January - March 2017
- Q4 report: October - December 2016
- Q3 report: July - September 2016
Opioid surveillance interim reports
Interim reports use 6-week data to show apparent drug overdose deaths related to fentanyl.
- Interim report: July 2 - August 12, 2017
- Interim report: April 2 - May 13, 2017
- Interim report: January 1 - February 11, 2017
Opioid crisis response reports
Fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta
The rise in fentanyl overdoses is part of a pattern that has been seen across Canada.
The Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use has tracked this pattern in a 2015 bulletin, Deaths Involving Fentanyl in Canada, 2009–2014 (0.3 MB).
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In May 2017, the government created the new Minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission, under the Opioid Emergency Response Regulation in the Public Health Act. The commission will oversee and implement urgent coordinated actions on the opioid crisis, focused on 6 strategic areas:
- harm-reduction initiatives
- enforcement and supply control
- surveillance and analytics
- Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta (co-chair)
- Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health (co-chair)
- Karen Turner, president of Alberta Addicts Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly (AAWEAR)
- Marliss Taylor, program manager of Streetworks, Edmonton’s needle-distribution program
- Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, physician on Kainai First Nation (Blood Tribe)
- Petra Schulz, parent advocate with Moms Stop the Harm
- Atiya Ashna, Diversity and Community Collaboration specialist
- Staff Sgt. Jason Walker, Calgary Police Service
- Dr. Nicholas Etches, Calgary clinician with expertise in opioid addiction and treatment
- Dr. Karen Mazurek, deputy registrar, College of Physicians and Surgeons
- Kathy Ness, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health Services Delivery Division, Alberta Health
- Bill Sweeney, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Public Security Division, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General
- Kathryn Todd, Vice President, Research, Innovation and Analytics, as well as Executive Lead for Seniors, Addiction and Mental Health with Alberta Health Services
- Dr. Gerry Predy, Senior Medical Officer of Health, Alberta Health Services
Commission records of discussion
- Opioid commission minutes - June 12, 2017 (0.1 MB)
- Opioid commission minutes - June 29, 2017 (0.1 MB)
- Opioid commission minutes - July 27, 2017 (0.1 MB)
Harm Reduction enhances the ability of people who use substances to have increased control over their lives and their health, and allows them to take protective and proactive measures for themselves, their families and their communities. Reduction of substance use and/or abstinence is neither expected nor required in order to receive respect, compassion or quality services.
Harm Reduction aims to decrease adverse health, social and economic outcomes that may result from risky actions. It represents policies, strategies, services and practices that assist people to live safer and healthier lives. It acknowledges that each person is different and requires different supports, strategies and goals.
Examples of harm reduction include, but are not limited to:
- peer and outreach supports
- needle distribution and/or distribution of other harm reduction supplies, such as Naloxone, to Alberta cities
- drug substitution therapies (such as AHS opioid dependency program)
- supervised consumption services
5 highest-volume perscribed opioids in Alberta, by month, Jan. 2015 to Dec. 2016
Opioids are drugs used to relieve pain. The most common forms are:
Opioids can be pharmaceutical-grade and prescribed by physicians and surgeons. Prescription opioids can end up for illegal sale on the street. These can be “cut” or tainted with other compounds, including fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a very strong, odourless and tasteless synthetic narcotic about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Non-illicit fentanyl is typically prescribed to control severe pain.
Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is being imported, mixed with other drugs and illegally sold in pill form (fake oxys and other club drugs) or powder form (as heroin or fent) and powder form mixed into other drugs (e.g. cocaine, crystal meth, etc.).
Three or 4 grains of fentanyl are enough to kill an average adult.
Carfentanil is a fentanyl analogue and opioid drug 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. It is not licensed for use in humans, but is meant to sedate large animals under strict safety conditions, such as elephants. One grain can kill an adult.
- Support for life-saving opioid program (Aug 16, 2017)
- New commission to guide opioid emergency response (May 31, 2017)
- New federal opioid funding will help save lives (Mar 10, 2017)
- Province expands naloxone program, adds treatment spaces (Feb 7, 2017)
- Statement from Alberta ministers on federal response to opioid crisis (Dec 12, 2016)
- Toxic opioid carfentanil linked to 15 deaths (Dec 5, 2016)
- Province bolsters opioid action plan to save lives (Oct 27, 2016)
- Statement from ministers on detection of carfentanil (Oct 7, 2016)
- Carfentanil detected in two deaths in Alberta (Oct 7, 2016)
- Latest steps to combat opioids are welcomed by Justice and Health Ministers (Aug 31, 2016)
- Province improves and expands access to naloxone, opioid treatment and counselling (May 11, 2016)