The addiction counselor that helped former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford overcome his struggle with crack-cocaine issued a dire warning about fentanyl Sunday.
Fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, surpassed heroin as the deadliest drug in the U.S. in 2016 and is now overtaking drug supplies in Canada. Bob Marier, the coach who helped Ford overcome his addictions to crack-cocaine and alcohol before he passed away from cancer last year, warned that the fentanyl “epidemic has just begun,” according to the Calgary Herald.
Speaking at the fifth annual Recovery Day at Shaw Millennium Park in Calgary, Marier said the risk of fentanyl exposure is no longer limited to users of heroin or other dangerous opioids. He said that fentanyl is increasingly cut into recreational drugs that are more widely used, like cocaine.
“You can have an experimental weekend or go to a concert and die,” Marier said Sunday, according to the Calgary Herald. “It’s like a drug Russian roulette, but now there’s more bullets in the chamber. This epidemic has just begun, and if you don’t have a proper response set up, you’re going to be in big trouble. Fentanyl is just seeping into the drug supply.”
He stressed the need for greater education on the growing prevalence of fentanyl in the community. The substance has already killed 241 people in Alberta in 2017.
In the U.S., fentanyl is exacerbating an already devastating opioid addiction crisis. A study recently released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that drug overdose deaths will claim more than 70,000 lives in 2017, fueled primarily by fentanyl.
It is cropping up more regularly in cocaine, as dealers are increasingly cutting the fatal painkiller into their supplies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cocaine overdose deaths increased from roughly 4,000 in 2009 to more than 6,700 in 2015.
Officials say cocaine overdose deaths are about to explode in 2017 to nearly 11,000. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.
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