Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Drug a scourge in Steinbach

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STEINBACH RCMP are calling the recent arrest of an alleged fentanyl dealer a small step in solving an emerging problem of fentanyl abuse in the Manitoba city.

"We're very concerned. We have intelligence to suggest that it's still out there, and I don't think that we've nipped this in the bud," said Const. Coling Choquette, with Steinbach RCMP, on Sunday. He added one Steinbach resident has overdosed on the drug in the past week.

Fentanyl is a narcotic pain medication used to treat cancer pain and in operating rooms as part of an anesthetic. It is 100 times more potent than morphine and heroin and 750 times more potent than codeine.

Steinbach RCMP officers arrested Kyle Barker on Saturday and charged him with possession of fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking. Barker was initially stopped by police when his car had mechanical issues. Police say after officers questioned the 20-year-old, he fled the vehicle on foot and was apprehended in a back lane nearby. He was remanded into custody.

Choquette said RCMP have received word from street intelligence that use of the highly addictive drug has vastly increased in Steinbach over the past month.

"The major issue that we're experiencing is just talking to some of the people on the street that have been using it. They're saying it's extremely addictive and the biggest complaint is the low, like when they're coming off of it, the withdrawal is terrible," he said.

Dr. Eric Jacobsohn, anesthesia and perioperative medicine department head at the University of Manitoba's faculty of medicine, said in addition to its highly addictive quality, fentanyl is most dangerous to first-time users.

"It's very easy to overdose on your first time. After that first time, your body gets used to the effects and you're dealing with massive addiction but not as much danger of overdose," Jacobsohn said.

"It's just a different brand of drug this week. For years and years, it was OxyContin. Now that Oxy's out, it's just another drug in the same class. They're powerful and they're dangerous."

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 8, 2013 A6

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