‘It’s an epidemic:’ Inexpensive crystal meth eclipsing opioids on the Prairies

Meth is rapidly overtaking fentanyl as the drug of choice

Police are dealing with a prairie fire of methamphetamine use which is rapidly overtaking fentanyl as the drug of choice for many.

Opioid use continues to be a public-health crisis with just under 4,000 deaths across Canada in 2017 and over 3,000 in 2016.

But officers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta say they’re worried about crystal meth as a narcotic of choice.

“The meth problem is happening across the Prairies. They’re seeing that opioid use is now being replaced with meth,” said Lethbridge police Chief Rob Davis.

“What I’m hearing anecdotally is so many people were dying on the fake fentanyl that there’s a perception out there that meth is safer —still dangerous, but safer.”

Meth, followed by heroin and fentanyl, is the top drug consumed at the supervised consumption site in Lethbridge. Davis recently watched people coming out of the site.

“There were some who looked like the Time-Life commercials for songs of the ’60s, where everybody’s doing their interpretive dancing, and then I’m watching people who just had that walk of rage, just stomping down the street with all that anger.”

The situation in Saskatoon is no better.

“It is an epidemic. I think we’ve reached that point,” said Det.-Sgt. Robin Wintermute from the police drug enforcement team.

“When I talked to my cohorts up in Prince Albert and down in Regina, they have the same things going on in their city as we are. It’s relatively cheap compared to cocaine and so it correlates with our business and residential break-ins, our petty thefts, our mail frauds, stolen autos, all that stuff.”

READ MORE: Arrests made after meth ‘super lab’ discovered in B.C.

Wintermute said a tenth of a gram of meth costs $5 to $10 while a single hit of fentanyl can run anywhere from $40 to $60.

Edmonton police have also seen a dramatic rise in meth use. Seizures of the drug surged to 33,112 grams in 2017 from 9,017 grams in 2013. Just under 30,000 grams has been seized so far this year.

“The trend is certainly going upwards,” said Sgt. Guy Pilon, clandestine lab co-ordinator in Edmonton’s organized crime division. “There’s no lack of meth on the street. What we are seeing though is kind of an anomaly in that there is some really inexpensive meth that’s being sold out there, almost half the price of the normal stuff.”

Pilon said there’s also been an increase in the use of speedballs — users take fentanyl until about the time they are going to nod off and then use meth as a stimulant.

Many dealers are offering a wide range of drugs for customers instead of focusing on just one kind of narcotic, he added.

“Now the drug traffickers are selling more of a cornucopia of drugs to serve a greater client base.”

Winnipeg’s police Chief Danny Smyth has said the skyrocketing use of methamphetamine is creating a crisis for police, health-care services and addictions treatment centres.

Numbers from Winnipeg’s health authority show there has been a 1,200 per cent rise in people going to hospitals because of methamphetamine — 218 meth-related visits in April 2018 from 12 in April 2013.

Officer safety is also a concern. Where opioid users tend to be docile, those high on meth are more unpredictable.

“That’s the problem with it, right? Some of them have been up for days. It’s a devastating drug on the body and typically they’re not easy to deal with when they’re on the drug,” said Wintermute.

“They’ll use it all day long or over a period of days just to keep that high … then it’s a crash.

“They’ve got to feed that addiction.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

The project is expected to create up to 2,920 direct jobs during construction, the federal release said

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
VIDEO: Fake news creates serious issues for battling pandemic, chief public health doc says

Both Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to be responsible about the information they share

A narwhal tusk that was donated to a Goodwill store in northwest Calgary this summer will soon be gifted to the Arctic Institute of North America (Hesam Rezaei)
Narwhal tusk discovered in Calgary Goodwill pile to be donated to university

The tusk had federal hunting tags from 1978 attached that say animal was harvested from the central Arctic

(The Canadian Press)
Alberta-raised Cree actor lands role in Disney’s live-action ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’

Tiger Lily is featured in Disney’s 1953 animated “Peter Pan” film

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

Pipeline division owned by Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. will now be required to restore 3,840 hectares of caribou habitat,

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny and government house leader Jason Nixon chat before the speech from the throne delivered in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Alberta politicians are to return to the legislature Tuesday with a plan to discuss up to 20 new bills — many of which are focused on the province’s economic recovery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta legislature to resume Tuesday; focus to be on economic recovery

Opposition house leader Heather Sweet said the NDP will focus on holding Premier Jason Kenney

Most Read