The Tragedy of Fentanyl

By Kenneth Bagnell

The current terror over toxic drugs –- the mutiny of taking  “fentanyl” will have killed roughly 4,000 Canadians in 2017 — is now tragically deep in history. I think that Carl Jung, the brilliant social scientist, who died in 1961, knew this could happen, as he had both knowledge and insight that the users were suicidal and did or didn’t know it. A scholar who knew his work well spoke up years ago to say that those who followed Christian faith and Jungian psychology, would avoid the virtually suicidal recklessness. “Every form of addiction,” he said in the early 1900s, “is very bad, no matter whether the narcotic be morphine, opium, or cocaine…” And yet university students are either foolish or stupid enough to venture into disaster’s killer.

            It’s was barely a week ago, that a document came to me from Ottawa, with the heading, “Overview of national data on opioid-related harms and deaths…” It was dated, December 12, 2018, so that we can be quite certain that what the current federal government sends us is to have young people –- they are the most vulnerable – reject the absolute idiocy of opioid harm and death. My study is swarming with such documents, one being an immediate testimony on the dreadful tragedy in British Columbia. In summation, we can be sure of the specific tragedy, that is assured and now made public: A senior B.C. coroner reports that over 1,420 individuals died of illicit-drug overdoses in B.C in 2017, “the most tragic year ever.” (Spoken by the chief coroner.) Added to it in heavy black print was this sentence: “Fentanyl caused more than 80 percent of suspected deaths last year”….

         That may well be B.C’s dark tragedy but it’s a segment only of a province. In an effort to kill the tragic shocks, Ottawa is building a team which is in turn making public its efforts coast to coast. We have time and room for but one example, and that is Fentanyl, the most deadly of the drugs. In brief yesterday, I turned up the document with its paragraphs of fentanyl potency, overdosing, illegality and so on. It’s been around for a long time, and the federal government is saying that the drug enters the illegal drug market in three ways: “(1) theft of pharmaceutical fentanyl products. (2) illegal importation from other countries, and (3) production by illegal clandestine laboratories in Canada…”

         Worse is this paragraph: “Canada’s illegal drug supply is being contaminated with illegal fentanyl and other fentanyl-like drugs… You can’t see, taste or smell fentanyl and a few grains can be enough to kill you.  Fentanyl is a cheap way for drug dealers to make street drugs more powerful and it is causing high rates of overdoses and overdose deaths… Illegal drugs may contain unknown amounts of fentanyl. Drug dealers who make fake pills may not know or control carefully how much fentanyl goes into each pill. As well, sometimes drugs may accidently contain fentanyl when drug dealers use surfaces and equipment contaminated with fentanyl…” 

         There is, I see, a sense of testing strips of fentanyl if you use it. The document I mentioned, has a paragraph of safety, headed with three words: “Fentanyl test strips….” I have no idea as to where you can go to acquire such strips but, the document I’m reading is frank about it saying: “There are also fentanyl test strips available in stores or online. However, if you do decide to use these fentanyl test strips, it’s important to know there are limitations. No fentanyl test strips are specifically designed to check street drugs before consumption. Fentanyl test strips may not detect fentanyl-like drugs   which may be even more harmful… If you do use opioids or drugs that may be contaminated with fentanyl, do not use alone, carry naloxone and know the signs of an opioid overdose….”

         By the way, there’s what’s called a “Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act.” It has a “just-in case-” list -– that is what will you do if you do something you should not do. Got that?  If it happens, there’s a poster somewhere which has this modest list: (1) Stay and call 911 or your local emergency number.(I wonder what that is.) (2) The Good Samaritan law can protect you — while it’s on the dark side, it’s doing the right drug possession charges. (Really?) (3) Learn more at (Got that?) (4) Together we can #StopOverdoses. (Really?)

         So it is. But I should never end a serious passage with a light wit bit. Not long ago, I read a paragraph from the B. C. Coroners Service, and it’s surely ominous, and that dark side may have an influence where influence is needed: “Approximately 81 percent of suspected deaths last year involved the opioid fentanyl.  Lapointe said it was often combined with other illicit drugs – most often heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines… If not for fentanyl, we wouldn’t be seeing the deaths we’re seeing… A man walks past a mural by street artist Smokey D. about the fentanyl and opioid overdose crisis in Vancouver…. Most of the overdose deaths in the province happened in that city. Nearly 90 per cent of people who died were alone inside a home when they suffered an overdose… Four out of five were men, and more than half of all victims were between the ages of 30 and 49…” So be it.  


   Again I wish you, as I did a week or so ago, with my best wishes for the Christmas season and then the New Year that brings the season that we all welcome.                                                   


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