View attachment 46829 Drinking a coffee in the Starbucks on College Drive you would not peg Sabra LeTourneau as a user of a deadly and toxic drug.
Wearing glasses, a hat and a pair of burgundy pants, the Saskatoon woman has been struggling with addiction for roughly 10 years and for the last five she's been dealing with an addiction to opiates.
Her drug of choice: fentanyl.
"If you're seeking to just numbout and put your problems off for another day - yeah, this was my drug of choice," she said. "This was the drug that took me down the furthest, the hardest and the quickest."
Never having a prescription, LeTourneau said she had always scored her drugs on the street, and although by the end of her addiction - she's been clean for more than two months - she was actively seeking out Fentanyl.
Like many, she first started using the deadly substance as a replacement for OxyContin. "That was at least four years ago," she said. "As soon as I started buying those, I knew that they weren't really oxys - I didn't know what was in them - but we knew that they weren't really oxys."
While she is working to separate herself from her circle of friends who still use, LeTourneau feels the summer of 2015 may have been a peak for the drug in Saskatoon, saying she's "never seen it so readily available and for so cheap."
"I think at one point, I would have four numbers that I would call ... it just got really, really popular," she said.
The growing popularity of the drug and other opiates has proven deadly, as of 2015 there were 56 accidental overdose deaths related to opioid use - 10 of them involved fentanyl.
Last week, the Government of Saskatchewan announced it will be starting an anti-overdose kit pilot project in Saskatoon.
The program will see opiate addicts able to access the kits - which contain two vials of Naloxone, two syringes, a pair of gloves and an alcohol swab.
Naloxone is a drug that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose from drugs like morphine, fentanyl, heroin or methadone.
While the province has released no information about when, where or how the kits will be distributed in Saskatoon, Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer said those requesting kits will have to be assessed by medical staff to ensure the application would be beneficial. "It will be targeted to people who are able to come and say: 'I think I'm at risk because I potentially use opioids,' " said Shahab.
He explained while Saskatchewan has been slow to introduce the anti-overdose kits, a potential rollout needs to be "systematic" and its expansion will depend heavily on how well the program is received in Saskatchewan.
"We need to understand how it fits in with other services that are provided," he said.
"We'll be working closely with the coroners office and with ERs to see what is the actual need and to see if this needs to be replicated in other sites as well."
For LeTourneau, she said the introduction of the kits will save lives.
"I think it's going to help as long as the word gets out," she said, noting she'll likely get a kit once they become available.
"Once I'm trying to stay clean - I can't hang out with those people - but I know that if I got back into it, I would certainly want to keep one of those (kits) around," she said. "Especially with those Fentanyl pills - because you don't how much is in them."
However, she said the medical assessment in order to get the kits may pose an obstacle for some users.
Stephanie Norris, communications and volunteer coordinator at AIDS Saskatoon, which operates 601 Outreach and offers a needle exchange among its services, said the organization fully-supports the province's decision to bring the pilot on board.
She said the organization will be better able to form an opinion on the program once its fully implements and they have heard feedback from some of their clients.
"We're really happy that they're going to be available in Saskatchewan, because there's obviously a need," she said.
When asked why it's important to have access to these kits she answered: "Because they save lives - it's really that simple."
However, Shahab cautioned the public they should still contact 911 if they witness an overdose even if they're able to administer the naloxone successfully as the kits are not a one-stop fix and will be implemented into the province's efforts around education and awareness with kit recipients being offered training, information and counselling.
"It's important to note that even in provinces where take-home naloxone kits are available, it's not a magic bullet," he said.
Images: Morgan Modjeski , Saskatoon StarPhoenix
By MORGAN MODJESKI
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Government of Saskatchewan Announces Anti-OD Naloxone Kit Pilot Project