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.

Naxolone
  • 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

Overview

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

Reports

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.

Opioid surveillance interim reports

Interim reports use 6-week data to show apparent drug overdose deaths related to fentanyl.

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).

  2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Jan - Mar 126 71 71 - - - -
April - June 120 85 64 - - - -
July - Sept - 91 61 - - - -
Oct - Dec - 121 51 - - - -
Total 246* 368 247 114 66 29 6
* Jan 1 - June 30

Minister’s Opioid Emergency Response Commission

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
  • treatment
  • prevention
  • enforcement and supply control
  • collaboration
  • surveillance and analytics

Commission members

  • 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 reports

Commission records of discussion

Commission recommendations

Harm reduction

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:

Prescribing patterns

5 highest-volume perscribed opioids in Alberta, by month, Jan. 2015 to Dec. 2016

this graph shows the 5 highest prescribed opioids in Alberta - Oxycododne, hydromorphone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl

Total OME per 1,000 population, per month, Jan. 2015 to Dec. 2016
Source: Triplicate Prescription Program (CPSA)
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta

Definitions

Opioid

Opioids are drugs used to relieve pain. The most common forms are:

  • codeine
  • oxycodone
  • methadone
  • hydromorphone
  • fentanyl

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

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

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.

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