At the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs we have been studying the fatal impact of fentanyl on our Canadian streets.

Senator Vern White has introduced Bill S-225, to regulate the ingredients required to make fentanyl. These ingredients are called precursors, substances that are used to make the illicit drug.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine and 40 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl is prescribed to cancer patients in extreme pain, but it has found its way to the streets. Fentanyl is cheaper than other opioids such as heroin, and therefore it is used to cut drugs like OxyContin, Heroin, or Cocaine.

Today, fentanyl itself is illegal; however, the precursors are not.

During our meeting on June 2, we heard from a courageous woman, Marie Agioritis, about her tragic story of how she had to see her oldest son Kayle struggle with drug addiction and how she lost her third son Kelly to fentanyl overdose.

Kayle was “an athlete, captain of his football team, and scholastically successful. He loved his sports…yet, nothing prepared him for his new found passion for prescription medications.” Kayle was introduced to OxyContin at a party when he was in grade 12. Kayle struggled with drug addiction, and to give sobriety a chance. “Sobriety did come to Kayle…but at a cost [Agioritis] could never have imagined,” the cost being Kayle’s younger brother, Kelly’s life.

“On the night of January 2nd, [2015,] Kelly went to Kayle’s apartment and secured a pill from a dealer who was crashing there for a few days.” Kelly snorted half a pill, and Kayle made sure that Kelly was safe by making Kelly stay for the next 40 minutes. Kelly was then sent home with the other half. “[T]he problem being the concentration of the drug, fentanyl, was in that second half. It killed him.” Kelly was just 19 years old. He was “sweet, kind, funny, compliant…loving…loved.” said Agioritis emotionally. It was only half a pill that killed Kelly.

Unfortunately, there are many Canadians with similar stories to Kelly’s. Today, too many Canadians are dying from fentanyl overdose, and it is often by accident. People are taking drugs that are presumably OxyContin, for example, but in reality taking OxyContin laced with fentanyl, or even just fentanyl itself.

Just a small concentration could lead to an overdose with fentanyl.

Agioritis stated that “[e]ducation, awareness, harm reduction strategies and a bucket full of opportunities exist…these are imperative; however we need to look at root cause and eliminate the sources wherever possible.”

It is important that Bill S-225 is passed to regulate fentanyl precursors in Canada, so that law enforcement can take the necessary legal actions to prohibit these chemical compounds from being used to make the illicit drug that is killing Canadians.

Thank you to Marie Agioritis for sharing her emotional story with us. Her story exemplified how fentanyl can tragically affect people’s lives, and how drug addiction can cost not only the users lives, but also the lives of those around them.