Addiction workers say they’ve been seeing a new danger for drug users in Saskatchewan.

Kayla DeMong, executive director for Saskatoon-based Prairie Harm Reduction, said they’ve been finding another substance mixed with fentanyl.

“Since April, we have been utilizing a spectrometer at our safe consumption site, allowing us to do full spectrum drug testing on products brought in to the site,” DeMong told CTV News. “What we have seen very consistently since April is that every fentanyl test that we have done has come back positive for benzos.”

Benzos – short for Benzodiazepines – are medications that slow brain activity. They induce a drowsy or calming feeling, and can help those with anxiety or sleep disorders.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) confirmed they’ve noticed the situation evolve over the last year in both Saskatoon and Regina.

DeMong said the mix was creating a complicated situation.

“Fentanyl is already very difficult to combat with or counteract with Naloxone because of how strong fentanyl is as a substance but with benzos it's another layer of symptoms and issues on top of what you already see with a fentanyl overdose.”

DeMong said after Naloxone is administered, many patients need more monitoring.

“When it's just opioids, once Naloxone is administered, people become alert pretty quickly,” DeMong said.

“But with benzos, they're not waking up. Their breathing returns. Their heart rate returns, but they're not waking up. And we can, you can shake them and try and alert them and it's like waking up the most sleepy person in the world.”

DeMong said that these people are staying at the site for hours so they can be monitored and get oxygen.

“Drug poisoning is an absolute epidemic in our community,” DeMong said, adding she did not know why suppliers were mixing the two substances.

With files from Tyler Barrow

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