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Calgary emergency physician says fentanyl stickers possibly more potent than pills

Stickers found in the possession of people suffering from suspected fentanyl overdoses are being tested for the deadly drug

A pill press is shown at the Alberta fentanyl conference hosted by CPS in 2016. Bill 205, which is in the last stage of the legislative process, will require a licence to own a pill press and carry a maximum fine of $375,000 and one-year jail sentence.

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A pill press is shown at the Alberta fentanyl conference hosted by CPS in 2016. Bill 205, which is in the last stage of the legislative process, will require a licence to own a pill press and carry a maximum fine of $375,000 and one-year jail sentence.

If tests confirm the presence of fentanyl on stickers recovered from patients in Alberta emergency departments, it could signal a dangerous shift in the fight against the deadly drug.

The Alberta Paramedics Association recently posted warnings on social media about the brightly coloured stickers that were found in the possession of people suffering from what emergency physicians suspect were fentanyl overdoses.

Although test results have yet to confirm the stickers did contain fentanyl, the possibility is a dangerous one, according to Dr. Scott Lucyk with University of Calgary’s emergency medicine department.

“The concern I would have at this point is that the fentanyl being put into the stickers would be a (smaller) amount, but more potent,” said Lucyk, who is also an emergency physician in Calgary and medical toxicologist.

“I would suspect that those who are making these stickers would have to put a more concentrated amount of fentanyl in there — they can’t put the same volume of (already diluted) powder into a sticker as they could to a pill,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Mark Hatchette with the Calgary Police Service (CPS) Strategic Enforcement Unit said officers haven’t come across the stickers yet.

“We try and change when we need to change, because of how organized crime changes the way they do their distribution,” Hatchette told Metro, adding the stickers should be treated as if they are laced with the powerful opioid until proven differently, just in case.

The Alberta Paramedic Association posted this photo on social media with the following caption: 'A warning from a Calgary Paramedic: these are homemade fentanyl stickers (transdermal patches), do not touch without gloves!'

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The Alberta Paramedic Association posted this photo on social media with the following caption: 'A warning from a Calgary Paramedic: these are homemade fentanyl stickers (transdermal patches), do not touch without gloves!'

Pure, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is shipped from overseas in powder form and mixed with other compounds before being packaged with a pill press, effectively stretching profits for organized crime groups, Hatchette explained.

Those using drugs such as fentanyl, whether in pill or powder form, have no way to know what they’re actually ingesting or how concentrated the dose is.

In 2016, 368 Albertans died from fentanyl-related overdoses and 247 deaths have been recorded this year to date, according to recent data from the province.

Bill 205, put forth by UCP MLA for Calgary-West and former Calgary police officer Mike Ellis, would require a licence to own a pill press and carry a maximum fine of $375,000 and one-year jail sentence.

The bill unanimously passed its third and final reading in the Alberta legislature in May 2016 and is currently waiting for royal assent to make it law.

“It’s a long overdue law,” Hatchette said. He estimates CPS has seized dozens of pill presses in the past year.

“Four years ago, when we saw pharmaceutical opiate robberies at pharmacies, at least we knew the pills were the real ones. Now we’re seeing more and more overdoses because we have more and more derivatives of fentanyl and (unpredictable) quantities,” he said.

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