Alberta is facing a substance use-related health crisis. Currently, more Albertans are dying each year from drug overdoses than at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This epidemic is claiming lives in Alberta at a rate greater than one per day.
According to Alberta Health Services (AHS) statistics, there were 589 fentanyl overdose deaths across Alberta in 2017, an increase of 69 per cent from the total of 349 deaths in 2016.
18 fentanyl deaths occurred in Lethbridge in 2017, and the death rate in this city was the third-highest among Alberta cities at a rate of 19 deaths per 100,000 people.
Provincially, the number of fentanyl deaths has roughly doubled almost every year since 2011 when there were six.
In addition to fentanyl, the use of carfentanil – an opioid used by veterinarians on very large animals such as elephants – has also become more prominent in the past year. A lethal batch of carfentanil is blamed for 42 overdoses that occurred over a single weekend in Lethbridge in late February.