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 has 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.

Review of medical examiner data

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

Youth reporting

Government of Alberta’s response to the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate report:

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 to 2014 (PDF, 310 KB).

  2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
January to March 168 116 68 73 - - - -
April to June 166* 131 80 66 - - - -
July to September 180 141 83 65 - - - -
October to December 159 178 116 52 - - - -
Total 673 566 347 256 116 66 29 6
* current up to December 31, 2018



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 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 (for example, 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.