By Gillian Slade on March 11, 2017.
There has been a shift from illicit fentanyl pills to methamphetamine and heroin when it comes to drug seizures locally, according to Medicine Hat Police Service.
Based on drug investigations by MHPS and Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, there were 806 fentanyl pill seizures in 2014. That dropped to 615 in 2015. It dropped again in 2016 to just 30 pills.
“Although we are seeing a decrease in fentanyl independently, we are seeing a rise in fentanyl mixed with the heroin, adding to the already precarious nature of the drug,” said Insp. Brent Secondiak.
In the same time frame there were unprecedented increases in the amount of heroin and methamphetamine seized by MHPS.
There were 150.41 seizures of methamphetamine in 2014. In 2015 it increased to 369.37 and in 2016 to 1,474.24, according to the police commission report. Heroin seizures increased from 7 in 2014 to 7.68 in 2015 and then a dramatic increase to 52.5 in 2016.
“Heroin generally accompanies methamphetamine to counteract the intense and prolonged stimulation of meth,” said Secondiak. “This is causing a proportional surge in both drugs.”
MHPS does not track the number of 911 calls it responds to specifically related to drug overdoses, unless there is a specific criminal investigation associated with it, said Secondiak.
“Poisoning by heroin in 2015 accounted for three emergency department visits,” said Secondiak. “That number shot up to 12 in the first 10 months of 2016 alone, across Alberta Health Services’ south zone, which includes Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. This number was commensurate with the surge in heroin seized by the MHPS.”
The number of cocaine seizures by MHPS have been declining from 3,811.42 in 2014 to 2,673.65 in 2016. The MHPS report states this could be attributed to focused enforcement and drugs users simply switching from crack cocaine to methamphetamine.
In 2016, Medicine Hat ALERT saw an increase in charges laid by the unit. From 2015 to 2016 there was a 49 per cent increase in possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Medicine Hat, a 38 per sent increase in trafficking, a 56 per cent increase in possession, a 376 per cent increase in proceeds from crime and a 229 per cent increase in other criminal code offences.
With the rise in opioid use there is an increase in property crimes such as theft, mischief, fraud, break and enter and arson. There were 2,584 in 2014, 3,048 in 2015 and 4,027 in 2016.
“Our CFSEU teams are also aware of this rise in property related offences and are working with our Priority Street Crimes unit to target traffickers or property and those who steal property in exchange for narcotics and illicit drugs,” said Secondiak. “The sentencing for property related offences is significantly less than violent persons or drug offences and is becoming increasingly difficult for police to target these related offences.”
What a drug user pays for illicit drugs on the street depends on the quantity purchased but typically it’s $40 for one fentanyl pill or $100 for one gram of cocaine, says Insp. Brent Secondiak Medicine Hat Police Service.
Fentanyl users would normally inject one pill, but we have heard of people cutting the pills in half, said Secondiak.
“This does nothing to affect the potency because they are made so poorly the amount of drug from one side of the pill to the other is inconsistent.”
Fentanyl was made in 1960 and used as a general anaesthetic, according to Wikipedia. By the mid 1990s fentanyl patches were used in palliative care. Intravenous fentanyl is used for anesthesia and to produce sedation for medical procedures.
Heroin costs $400 per gram. An average dose would be 1/10 of a gram and that would cost $40. It can be smoked or snorted but is most often injected, said Secondiak. The user can build up a tolerance to the drug and would need a higher dose to reach the same high.
Meth costs $100 per gram. It can be a powder but is most often seized in crystalline form (Crystal meth), said Secondiak. The difference is based in chemistry. Crystal meth is methamphetamine hydrochloride with the water removed.
Cocaine on the street costs $100 per gram. It comes in one of two forms: hydrochloride salt or “base.” The hydrochloride salt (powdered) form of cocaine can be administered intranasally (i.e. snorted), said Secondiak. Can also be dissolved in water and injected. The “base” forms of cocaine include any forms that are not neutralized by an acid to make the hydrochloride salt. Depending on the method of production, the base forms are called “freebase” or “crack.” How much is used at any given time depends on the user, past history, experience etc.