Opioid reports

Reporting the prescribing patterns, use/misuse, drug overdoses and deaths related to fentanyl and opioids in Alberta.

Overview

The Alberta government has been formally responding to the increase in opioid-related deaths since March 2015.

In response to surveillance data that showed a further increase in the number of fentanyl-related deaths, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health began leading the urgent opioid response in October 2016 and implemented a range of new tools to address overdoses and deaths related to fentanyl and other opioids.

Collecting and sharing the information helps government and the Minister's Opioid Emergency Response Commission tailor their actions and plans to address the opioid crisis in the most effective manner.

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

These reports provide updates on Alberta's urgent actions to the province's opioid crisis prior to the creation of the Minister's Opioid Emergency Response Commission.

First Nations reporting

Unintentional 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 (PDF, 310 KB).

  2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Jan - Mar 158* 119 69 73 - - - -
April - June - 132 82 66 - - - -
July - Sept - 145 86 65 - - - -
Oct - Dec - 184 117 52 - - - -
Total 158 579 354 256 116 66 29 6
* current up to March 31, 2018

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.