Harm reduction organization warns of fentanyl-tainted Xanax pills in Halifax

A Halifax-based harm reduction group is striving to raise awareness about reports of fake Xanax pills in Halifax containing the deadly opioid fentanyl.

“We were given an anonymous tip that some Xanax, or what looks like Xanax around the Halifax area, is actually containing fentanyl,” said Katerina Stein, a member of the Tea Hive Collective.

“Potentially, this Xanax has been linked to — I don’t know officially — but has been linked to some deaths or even harm towards people in the Halifax area and in Nova Scotia.”

The peer support collective is sharing photos online of the fake Xanax pills believed to contain fentanyl.

According to the Department of Justice, eight people died in Nova Scotia last year due to overdoses involving fentanyl.

Six people died in 2017.

So far this year, three people have died in the province due to acute drug toxicity.

Stein says recreational drug users may be at a higher risk for overdose due to a lack of education and awareness around methods of safety.

“People who use drugs recreationally might not get the information that they need to use safely because of the stigma around it,” Stein said. “and because recreationally, people might be taking alone or might be taking in places where there isn’t someone who has a Naloxone kit, or there’s not someone there who knows what an overdose looks like.”

The social media alerts have caught the attention of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Dalhousie University [CSSDP Dalhousie].

“As it stands, Halifax’s harm reduction strategy is inadequate at dealing with this threat to public health. We believe that drug use should not be a criminal issue, but a public health issue. Our communities need education, services — safe injection sites, overdose prevention sites — and resources to curb the risks,” said Agi Cabel, one of CSSDP Dalhousie’s founders.

Cabel says the criminalization of drugs leads to people being forced to use drugs with heightened risks of overdose and other risks like transmissions of HIV and other bloodborne infections.

“Another effect of criminalization is that drug users are often forced to use in unsafe situations, without proper supports. Criminalization also feeds into persuasive and unhelpful stigma around drug use,” she said.

The province has invested in making Naloxone kits available free of charge at pharmacies throughout the province.

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