A look inside the drugs circulating in Calgary

Mar 10, 2023

A recent analysis published by CBC News and authored by Judy Aldous and Carla Turner examined the composition of drugs seized in the Calgary community. According to data provided by the Calgary Police Service, in terms of drugs dealt by the gram, cocaine accounted for approximately 35% of drugs seized, followed by methamphetamine (20%), fentanyl (15%), and other precursors and pharmaceuticals (10%). For drugs seized in pill form, pharmaceuticals comprised approximately 35% of drug seizures, followed by steroids (16%), substances of unknown origin (11%), oxycodone (7%), benzodiazepines (6%), amphetamines (5%), MDMA (5%), fentanyl (4%), hydromorphone (4%), and codeine (2%).

In his interview with CBC News, Staff Sgt. Kyle Grant, who works with the CPS undercover unit, said the presence of chemical precursors in the drug supply leads to an unpredictable and potent drug supply. “Some of the cutting agents that are put in there are not, they’re not fit for human consumption,” he said. “Drugs are made not to a pharmaceutical grade, and so everybody reacts differently to them.”

In addition, Sgt. Grant added that benzodiazepines, also referred to as “benzos,” are also often being used to cut drugs. Moreover, naloxone, a medication used to help reverse the effects of opioid overdose, is not effective against benzodiazepines. Importantly, benzodiazepines have been increasingly detected in opioid drug samples, leading to an increased risk of deadly overdose, since combining these drugs leads to increased sedation and nervous system inhibition, suppressing breathing and impairing cognitive functioning.

Currently in B.C., the Centre for Disease Control now uses the terminology “unregulated drug poisoning emergency,” while some individuals are offered pharmaceutical-grade drugs, also termed “safe supply” in order to avoid the risks associated with street drugs. Furthermore, personal possession of 2.5 grams of drugs, including cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine and morphine, has now been decriminalized in B.C.

However, Alberta has allowed the use of safe supply, and Sgt. Grant says he supports this approach.

“I think finding other ways to help addicts rather than giving them a drug or another drug is only beneficial,” he said.

“I’m not a medical professional, but if you continue to give somebody drugs, you’re still going to end up with the same problems down the line. I think you’re just delaying the inevitable.”