Grieving Burnaby family joins those warning of danger of fentanyl

published on January 4, 2016 by Cheryl Chan in The Times Colonist

2015 is shaping up to be BC’s deadliest year for fentanyl-related deaths.

In recent years, fentanyl rose from relative obscurity to become a lethal street drug linked to more than 1,000 drug poisoning deaths across Canada between 2009 and 2014, with more than half of those deaths occurring in 2013 and 2014.

A powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl was developed to treat chronic pain and was typically delivered through a patch worn on the skin.

Today abuse of fentanyl is rampant. It is embraced by dealers and users for its low cost, high potency and addictive properties – and leaves in its wake thousands of shattered families.

“Fentanyl is a special evil,” said Mark Bodie, whose teenage son Jack Bodie died last August after snorting half of a “fake Oxy” pill laced with fentanyl.

“They’re putting it in everything because it’s cheap, it’s powerful and it’s incredibly alluring and amazingly addictive.”

The drug slowed down the 17-year-old boy’s breathing and heartbeat. In minutes, his whole system shut down to a state of coma.

“It’s the unintended consequence of cracking down or limiting a market,” said Dan Werb, executive director of the Toronto-based International Centre for Science in Drug Policy. “It’s called the balloon effect. You poke one part of it, the other parts expand.”

In BC, the first police alert on fentanyl came in April 2013 when Prince George RCMP warned drug users to be wary of a powerful narcotic resembling heroin being sold on the streets.

A month later, provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall issued a bulletin about the growing danger following 23 deaths in the first four months of the year.

Now such alerts have become alarmingly commonplace.

“2015 seems to be when it just took off,” said Vancouver Police spokesman Const. Brian Montague of fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths.

Police believe only a small percentage of fentanyl on the streets is from “diverted” prescriptions. The vast majority comes from illicitly manufactured fentanyl or fentanyl analogs smuggled from overseas. They can be sold as fake oxys or club drugs, and are often mixed into other drugs such as cocaine, heroin or crystal meth.

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