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Alberta RCMP Note Surge in Suspected Drug Overdoses in 2023

Mounties in Alberta say they responded to double the number of suspected drug overdoses between January and November of 2023 compared to all of 2022. The RCMP say about 1 in 3 of these resulted in death. 

In sum, the RCMP responsed to 1,026 suspected overdoses over the first 11 months of 2023, compared with 511 in all of 2022. Of the suspected 2023 overdoses, 347 were fatal.

In a news release published Wednesday, the RCMP say when comparing the same time periods, they deployed overdose treatment naloxone 24 per cent more, for a total of 63 times in January to November 2023 compared with 51 times in 2022. 

The RCMP say there were 1,262 opioid-related deaths in Alberta between January and August of 2023. This is about 20 per cent more than the 1,007 counted in the Alberta Substance Surveillance System report over the same period the previous year. 

Police say the overdoses may be tied to the practice drug traffickers use of “cutting” Fentanyl with easier to access, cheaper substances. This practice is known to reduce the effectiveness of naloxone, if it works at all, to save someone’s life during a drug poisoning crisis. 

“Street drugs are not always what they appear to be,” the release said. “Drugs marketed as fentanyl … may in fact be a mixture of unknown potency and characteristics, making the users ‘normal dose’ potentially more dangerous.” 

Alberta RCMP warns the symptoms of fentanyl overdose include slow, irregular, and shallow breathing, pinpoint pupils, muscle stiffness, seizures, and unconsciousness. Police say that if one is going to use illicit drugs, to avoid using alone, have someone check on you, know the signs of overdose and to call 911 if you or a loved one develops signs of drug poisoning.

Below: photo credit to Jeff Anderson on Flickr.

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