A documentary on fentanyl premiering on CBC Thursday night has major ties to Grande Prairie. One of the storylines in the one hour feature is on the family of a young man who overdosed at a party in the city last year.
Director Robert Osborne says his most surprising finding was that Grande Prairie has the highest number of fentanyl overdoses per capita in the province. Looking at 2015 and 2016 so far, it’s at 38 per 100,000 residents.
“Which is way higher than Edmonton; Edmonton’s 5.6, Calgary’s 6.75. I thought, ‘well, that’s odd,’ and I checked around and I did a few other places and the closest place that became comparable to it was Fort McMurray.”
If you look further back to 2014, there have been 37 fentanyl deaths in the city as of the end of September 2016. Fort Mac has seen 32, Edmonton 168, and Calgary 185.
Osborne has spent the last two years meeting with the family members of victims, police officers, and drug users. He says he got some of the best insight from a man who worked as an illegal chemist.
“He described how perfect fentanyl was as an illegal drug because it’s so concentrated and so easy to smuggle, and so valuable because of that, and he described this world as a ‘perfect storm’ of illegal drugs.”
Fentanyl overdoses have claimed the lives of 567 Albertans since the beginning of 2014, and police continue to bust major operations across the province. More than 2,000 pills were found in a Countryside South home just one week ago. Osborne doesn’t see the problem going away quickly.
“People ask me when I started this research project, ‘do you think fentanyl will be over as a phenomenon?’ and from everything that I knew – and I had some really good connections in the underworld that were providing me with information – I was able to say, ‘you know, listen, regrettably no way.'”
Unstoppable: The Fentanyl Epidemic airs December 1st at 9 p.m.