By ELENA RARDON
March 9, 2017 · Updated 4:06 PM
Port Alberni RCMP Corporal Clive Seabrook debunked some of the myths about fentanyl during
the Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Seabrook is a subject matter expert in major crime investigations and drug investigations.
There are only two police officers on Vancouver Island who are subject matter experts in
fentanyl, and Seabrook is one of them. “We’re very fortunate to have him in our community,”
said RCMP Inspector Brian Hunter. “It’s killing lots of people in our community here,” said
Hunter. “Talk to your friends, talk to your family about this stuff. We need to start saving
livesof this preventable death of drugs that’s killing people like crazy in this province.
Port Alberni is not immune to this.” Fentanyl, Seabrook explained, is an opioid drug that has
had a medical use for many years. It was developed here in Canada in the 1980s and is
used pharmaceutically very day to treat pain. “It’s been around for a long, long time,” he said.
“It does have a lot of legitimate uses.”
Another painkiller drug on the market called oxycodone led to a number of deaths a few years
ago. The federal government ultimately redesigned the drug,regulating a tamper-
proof version of the painkiller. “And when it happened, all the people that were hardcore drug
addicts, they could no longer use that, so they went looking elsewhere,” said Seabrook.
“By creating that vacuum,” he admitted, “we created a bigger problem.”
Fentanyl started to spread. “The dealers, the people who drive these markets, they saw the
profits,” said Seabrook. “And you could see people who were synthetically reproducing
fentanyl overseas. They were reproducing it for pennies on the gram.”
Anyone can purchase a kilogram of fentanyl for $12,000 Canadian and ship it overseas. “What
you’ll do at that point is make counterfeit heroin or counterfeit oxycodone pills,” said Seabrook.
The counterfeit pills are mostly filler, with the fentanyl making up only one per cent of the total
weight because of the drug’s strength. The one kilogram brick of fentanyl can then become $2
0 to $40 million of oxycodone.
“The people that we see that overdose on fentanyl aren’t buying fentanyl,” Seabrook explained
“They’re going out and they’re buying fake oxycodone, or they’re buying heroin, which they
think is real heroin, and actually it’s counterfeit heroin. The only drug in that powder is
fentanyl. The people who are buying the drug don’t know what they’re getting.”
Seabrook said the situation is further complicated in Port Alberni because dealers are operating
in less than sterile environments. “In one case they may be mixing counterfeit heroin that has
fentanyl in it, and wipe that scale off, and the next thing they’ll mix a package of cocaine.
And what happens is the fentanyl from the previous dose gets mixed in with the cocaine.
And the person who buys the coke accidentally gets cross-contaminated,
and they overdose on fentanyl.”
A lot of cocaine is used in Port Alberni, Seabrook admitted—more so than marijuana.
Seabrook estimated that of the 20 fentanyl overdoses that the RCMP know of in Port Alberni,
18 of those were from someone who bought a drug like cocaine.“They thought that’s what
they were getting, they were buying from the same person they bought from for years, there
was actually nothing different about the transaction at all. Unfortunately, fentanyl got mixed
in with that.”
The difficulty with fentanyl, Seabrook explained, is the drug’s strength. “For [those] who have
never consumed opioids or built up any kind of a tolerance to it, it’s literally two grains of
sand worth of the drug will cause respiratory failure. That’s all it takes.”
Someone questioned whether or not parents should worry about high school students
experimenting with marijuana, and Seabrook called this a healthy fear to have, although not
an accurate one. “Anytime fentanyl has been present, it’s been one of the hardcore drugs,”
he said. “Unfortunately right now, we’re not at theage right now where we can just have that
curiosity and experiment like some of us did when we were kids. That’s not a luxury anybody
has right now.” From a policing standpoint, he said, he’s looking at the dealers.
“For me it’s really more about the trafficker than it is about the user, because it’s the trafficker
that’s really causing these deaths,” he said.