EDMONTON — An Edmonton organization that helps young people with drug addictions says it has seen an influx of people coming in with fentanyl-related addictions.
“A year ago we hadn’t heard almost anything about fentanyl,” said Mike Ryan, founder of Clean Scene Network for Youth. “In the last eight months, nine months, we’ve seen 11 fentanyl cases walk through our door wanting treatment.”
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Ryan has worked with addicts for 27 years. In Clean Scene’s 13-year history Ryan says he’s never seen a drug skyrocket above the rest the way fentanyl has in the past few months.
“We saw 11 cases one after the other, which is really unusual,” he said.
“The problem is a lot of these kids aren’t even making it to our doors or to any other door. They’re dead before they even get a chance.”
In the first seven months of 2015, 145 people died of fentanyl overdoses in Alberta. Clean Scene Network for Youth says the majority of the clients it sees are both male and female between the ages of 17 and 25 from middle to upper-class families.
Earlier this year, Alberta Health Services approved $300,000 to dispense naloxone, an antidote that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, across the province. The antidote kits come with two doses of naloxone, syringes, gloves, alcohol wipes, a CPR mask and instructions on how to administer the drug.
READ MORE: Fentanyl antidote to become more readily available in Alberta
However, naloxone kits are only readily available in certain centres and Clean Scene Network for Youth is not one of them.
“We had a client in front of us with a parent, what are we going to do?” said Leslie Clearly, the organization’s fund development director. “The system is set up so that only the addicts can get it with a prescription so that needs to be talked about.”
“The reality is everybody working with addicts, dealing with fentanyl addicts needs to have those kits around,” Ryan added.
Streetworks at Edmonton’s Boyle Street Community Services was the first in Canada to distribute the antidote in 2005.
“More and more people are coming in our doors asking for those kits,” said Mathew Wong, a nurse educator with Streetworks. “A lot more people coming in.”
“We also want to get that message out that it’s preventable. If we get the information out there, we get naloxone kits out there and just awareness out there we’re able to prevent all these tragedies.”
Health Canada has also said it is reviewing the prescription-only status of naloxone on an urgent basis.
Clean Scene is holding a fentanyl symposium on Sept. 25. For more information visit the organization’s website.