CALGARY – Another fentanyl arrest has two police forces and Alberta’s health agency working together to raise awareness about the dangerous drug.
A Calgary man has been charged after a joint investigation by the Canadian Border Services Agency, the RCMP and Calgary police.
Authorities say a border officer at Vancouver’s International Mail Centre intercepted a parcel from China last month marked as a muffler and addressed to someone in Calgary.
A lab test confirmed the 122 grams of white powder in the package to be pure fentanyl.
Kasimir Tyabji, who is 27 and from Calgary, is charged with one count of importing a controlled substance and is next to appear in court on Monday.
Alberta Health Services launched a new awareness and education campaign last month about the synthetic opioid used primarily to treat severe pain.
Police warn fentanyl is an exceptionally dangerous substance and its potency makes stakes high for users. As little as two milligrams — the equivalent of two grains of salt — can kill someone, Calgary police Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta said at a news conference Thursday.
The latest discovery of fentanyl is one of many that have occurred in 2015. So far this year, Calgary police have made 34 fentanyl seizures compared with 12 in all of 2014, Schiavetta said.
“Fentanyl is out there and it is deadly,” he said.
A recent report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse said as many as 655 Canadians may have died between 2009 and 2014 from fentanyl overdoses. Health Canada’s drug analysis labs have also been detecting fentanyl more and more often in street drugs being sent for testing by law enforcement agencies.
“Certainly the police will not be able to arrest their way out of this problem,” Schiavetta said. “It is a health problem. It is a law enforcement problem.
“It’s a problem for all of society.”
The police sergeant said the main message is that “there is no such thing as a safe street drug.
“In Calgary alone, we have seen fentanyl mixed with heroin, caffeine, xylazine and I am sure once we get more results back from Health Canada we will see other illegal commodities — deadly substances —mixed with fentanyl.”
“Fentanyl is hiding in drugs Albertans are using,” medical health officer Dr. Nicholas Etches said.
The campaign by Alberta Health Services targets recreational users and some aboriginal communities linked to fentanyl. The health agency has been delivering kits of naloxone, a drug that can reverse a fentanyl overdose if it’s administered right away.
It is believed powdered fentanyl is being imported from China through online sales.