In 2016, 46 people died in Saskatchewan of an accidental overdose, according to the Office of the Chief Coroner. Of that number, 39 overdose cases were related to opioids, with six of those deaths being connected to fentanyl.

However, the 2016 data does not include deaths that remain under investigation.

Those statistics are down from numbers in 2015, when the coroner’s office reported 86 accidental drug overdose deaths, 76 of which involved opioids.

Marie Agioritis knows the struggle all too well. The Saskatoon mother lost her 19-year-old son, Kelly Bryan Best, to a fentanyl overdose in January of 2015.

“Kelly was funny, kind, gentle, but outgoing at the same time,” said Agioritis. “He snowboarded, longboarded, skateboarded, (but) he was never bored.”

All it took was half a pill of fentanyl to kill Best. Agioritis looked back on the fateful call she received when it happened, as if it were a scene from a movie.

“The cell phone drops to the ground and their body crashes down like there’s no bones in your body, it’s exactly how it happens,” she said.

In response to her son’s death, Agioritis joined ‘Moms Stop the Harm’, a national network for people who have lost family members or friends as a result of drug-use.

Expert in addictions at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Peter Butt, said the best path to prevention is education.

“Not scaremongering, but good information for predominantly young people to have available so they can push back against peer pressure, which is motivated in good part by the dealers,” said Butt.

But sometimes, in the event of an emergency, there’s only one option. The Saskatoon Fire Department and MD Ambulance are now using a device called Narcan. It’s a nasal spray to block the effects of an opioid. It would have been helpful in saving the life of Best, but Agioritis is concerned with just how much it needs to be used.

In 2017 so far, MD Ambulance has administered Narcan 17 times in Saskatoon. On eight of those occasions, it has been used on people between the ages of 26 to 40 years old. 

Butt agrees that more work in prevention still needs to be done.

“We can perhaps save lives, but then we need to get them transitioned into treatment,” said Butt. “Then they need to be supported into treatment and then recovery, and that’s where the system tends to fall down.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that 39 death cases were related to fentanyl overdose, when, in fact, the deaths were attributed to drug overdose deaths by the larger substance category of ‘opioids’. CTV regrets the error.