Challenge what you think you know.

An Interactive Experience | May 27 – May 30 2019


A large part of society still rejects the fact that drug use and addiction are health issues. Several studies indicate stigma as one of the main reasons people avoid treatment and support.

Opioids are a huge problem in Canada and the United States. According to a recent study from Statistics Canada, an average of 10 Canadians died from an illicit drug overdose every day in the two years leading up to March 2018.

According to Addiction, a documentary from The Passionate Eye, overdose is the number one cause of death for people under 50 in the United States. It killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017 alone. “We have hospitals that are overwhelmed with people who need help. We have a prison system that is filled with people who actually need treatment,” says former state health commissioner for West Virginia Rahul Gupta.

Read full CBC article here.


Video Resource CBC News Network; March 16/17, 2019

Addiction looks at what the science of substance use disorders can tell us about what causes them and what doctors can do to help. Here are a few key takeaways from the film:

  • Drug use rewires the brain
  • Addiction may run in families and start early
  • Abstinence-based treatments are ineffective for many
  • Drugs can curb cravings
  • Recovery from addiction is possible

Read the full article on CBC.

What are opioids?

Opioids are medication used mainly to treat pain. They are often prescribed by doctors for short- and long-term moderate to severe pain, and can slow down heart rate and breathing. Opioids can be prescribed as pills, syrups, nasal sprays, skin patches, suppositories and liquid injections. Types of opioids include:

  • codeine
  • fentanyl
  • carfentanil
  • oxycodone (oxy)
  • morphine
  • hydromorphine
  • heroin

Street names for opioids and other illegal drugs are many and varied. This list is not comprehensive but may help you if you are concerned someone you know may be using drugs.  Street names for opioids and other drugs (113.3 KB)

The illegal use of fentanyl is part of the opioid crisis. Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl. Opioids are sold or obtained illegally through methods including ordering online, manufacturing counterfeit pills (such as fake oxy) and reselling existing prescription pills. Fentanyl and carfentanil are often mixed with other drugs (such as heroin or cocaine) to increase drug potency or cut costs and increase profits.

Drug mixing and manufacturing can increase potency but without proper standards and procedures, the amount of each drug added can range drastically, increasing the risk of overdosing. Any medication or drug obtained illegally can be cross-contaminated with fentanyl and carfentanil simply from touching pills or sharing surfaces.

Opioids side effects

Using opioids can cause short-term side effects including:

  • drowsiness
  • constipation
  • impotence in men
  • nausea and vomiting
  • euphoria (feeling high)
  • difficulty breathing, which can lead to or worsen sleep apnea
  • headaches, dizziness and confusion, which can lead to falls and fractures

Long-term effects may include:

  • increased tolerance
  • substance misuse or dependence
  • liver damage

  • infertility in women
  • worsening pain (opioid-induced hyperalgesia)
  • life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in babies born to mothers taking opioids


If an overdose happens

Call 9-1-1 if you are or someone you know is experiencing overdose symptoms:

  • breathing slows or stops
  • nails and/or lips turn blue
  • choking or throwing up
  • gurgling sounds
  • skin is cold and clammy
  • feeling like you’re going to pass out
  • can’t wake up the person.

Canada’s Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides some legal protection for people who experience or witness an overdose and call for help.

Carrying a naloxone kit can save a life. Learn more about what to do during an overdose and how to use naloxone in case of an overdose.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act applies to anyone seeking emergency help during an overdose.

Support and resources

If you are or someone you know is using opioids, there is support. The Red Deer Hospital has a public clinic offering opioid dependency treatment.

It is important to remember women who are using methadone can still get pregnant. Babies can be born with an opioid addiction or experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms when women use opioids during pregnancy. 

Learn more about:

See Beyond. See the lives.

Watch the video series “The Letters”. This is what we’d say if only we still had the


Phil Haug lost his son, Alex.  These are the words Phil would say to him today. 


Kym Porter grieves for her son, Neil. Here are her thoughts for him.


Donna May talks to her daughter. This is what she wants her to hear.


Petra Schulz lost her son Danny when he was just 25. This is her letter to him.

Susan's brain: The science of addiction

"Painkiller: Inside the Opioid Crisis"

The Science of Addiction

Here’s Your Brain on Drugs