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Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid narcotic considered up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Alberta Law Enforcement Response

The Alberta government is expanding its program to try to save people overdosing on illicit fentanyl.

Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne announced Wednesday the province is now making naloxone kits available free of charge at pharmacies for those with a prescription.

Naloxone can reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose and save a person's life.

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"Every Naloxone kit that gets distributed represents one life potentially saved and one less family that has to experience the loss of a loved one," Payne told reporters in Calgary.

She said 300 pharmacies have so far signed on to provide the kits and train people how to use them.

The kits consist of various items, including syringes and vials of the drug, to help patients resume breathing. The government pays $27 per kit.

The plan has been rolled out in stages in recent months.

Two weeks ago, the government announced the kits were available at 29 walk-in clinics and harm-reduction centres.

In December, it said it was expanding the range of health practitioners who could distribute, administer and prescribe naloxone. That range now includes nurses, paramedics and other emergency responders.

The province is dealing with a crisis of overdose deaths related to fentanyl, which is normally used as a very powerful pain reducer.

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The government reports that 272 Albertans died from fentanyl overdoses in 2015 – more than double the previous year.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid narcotic considered up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Illicit fentanyl is created by adulterating the drug with heroin, cocaine or a similar substance. The powerful kick delivered by this mixture can in some cases put the user into respiratory distress.

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