Tuesday marked the largest valued seizure of fentanyl on record as Sarnia Police continue to grapple with a growing and crippling fentanyl crisis.
“The drug game has changed in Sarnia,” said Mike Howell, who heads the service’s drug unit. He was on hand at a special news conference held Wednesday after a traffic stop Tuesday led to the seizure of 422 grams of ‘street-ready’ fentanyl, along with 6.3 grams of pure or ‘uncut’ fentanyl, worth a total street value of more than $120,000.
“This isn’t just a traffic-stop, drug seizure — this is impacting countless lives,” said Sarnia Police Chief Derek Davis. “Whether it’s people who have to resort to crimes to support their habit, or whether it’s loss of life.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
“We’re starting to see the trend of ‘uncut’ versus ‘cut’ and that’s what’s quite
disturbing,” said Howell, pointing to ‘outside influences’ bringing ‘pure fentanyl into the city. “We’re talking a high concentration of fentanyl, even in small amounts. It’s then being added to various other agents… so they’re blending it up, portioning it out and hoping it’s somewhat consistent.
“But there’s no guarantee that you’re not getting an increased amount of that drug, considering how potent it is.”
And that leads to overdose, he said, pointing to nine fatal overdoses reported already this year, compared to ten in 2021. And the true number is likely much higher.
“So they come in and they set up shop quickly, they distribute their product to various lower level dealers here, and make huge amounts,” Howell added. “But… they’re bringing firearms with them now, and it’s more of a commonplace occurrence than it ever was before. “We’d go years where we might seize one firearm — now it’s a regular occurrence — whether it’s a uniform traffic stop or an investigation done by our drug unit.”
Local addictions physician Dr. Delmar Donald, also on hand at the news conference, said nearly 100% of some 900 patients at the Bluewater Methadone Clinic are impacted by fentanyl addiction, which is extremely difficult to overcome.
“Treating people is more complicated than it used to be.”