Dangers of fentanyl
Resources available to students
The Health and Wellness Office at the University of Manitoba is warning students and the community at large about the dangers of fentanyl.
“Due to the fact that fentanyl is so potent, the risk of overdose is a reality to anyone who uses illicit substances. Fentanyl is currently being added or ‘cut’ into other drugs (such as such as cocaine, MDMA, oxycodone and heroin). Users may not be aware they are ingesting fentanyl,” says Dr. Lori-Ann Lach, medical director of the U of M’s University Health Service.
The drug is a potent prescription synthetic opioid, used primarily to treat severe pain and in anesthesia. It is up to 100 times stronger than other drugs such as heroin, morphine and oxycodone.
Fentanyl has been used appropriately to treat severe pain in patients for some time says Dr. Lach. Recently, it has also become a drug of abuse. Survey results show that while less than one-tenth of one per cent of U of M students have ever used opioids illicitly, warnings about fentanyl’s danger should not be dismissed due to contamination risks for other drugs as well as the potential deadly effects of fentanyl to first-time users as well as long-term users.
As a health and wellness educator at the U of M, part of Katie Kutryk’s role is to monitor public health trends and provide the campus community with timely and relevant information about health issues that may affect them.
“The risk of overdose or death from use of fentanyl or other drugs cut or contaminated with fentanyl is a current reality. Although the only way to entirely eliminate risk of harm to oneself is to choose not to use, there are ways in which you can reduce the risk of negative outcomes, including overdose or death,” says Kutryk.
In light of a number recent deaths in Winnipeg and across the country, Kutryk and the university are proactively warning the U of M community about the dangers of the drug using a harm reduction model.
To this end, a fentanyl FAQ has been set up online, outlining facts about the drug as well as internal and external resources. In addition, the university has resources available to students through the University Health Service and the on-campus AFM support worker. Services are available to students who are in need of substance use or addictions supports, or who wish to learn more about illicit drugs or how to deal with a friend or loved one’s drug use.
The university is also working with the regional health authority and Manitoba Health to develop a plan for naloxone availability on campus. While this is no guarantee of safety in case of overdoses, it is part of the university’s overall harm reduction strategy.
“It is a fact that some people are using illicit drugs and others will use at some point in their lives. We are simply providing them with as much information as possible so that they can make informed decisions about their use of illicit drugs and reduce their risk for harm,” says Dr. Lach. “We are also providing those who may wish to change or stop their usage of illicit drugs the resources to get the help they want.”