ALBERTA

Edmonton Max Prisoners Overdose, Possibly On Fentanyl

08/20/2015 06:01 EDT | Updated 08/20/2015 06:59 EDT

EDMONTON — Some inmates at a maximum-security prison in Alberta have overdosed, prompting officials to test whether the prisoners ingested fentanyl.

Acting deputy warden Mark Otto with Edmonton Institution says the prisoners have been taken to an outside hospital.

He wouldn't say how many men fell ill or their medical conditions, but none has died.

Police and health officials across the country have issued warnings about fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that has killed hundreds of Canadians in the last few years.

Fentanyl overdoses have recently spiked in Western Canada, with about 145 deaths in Alberta so far in 2015.

Otto says the prison overdoses prompted a lockdown on Wednesday afternoon and officers are continuing to search for contraband.

He says the prevalence of fentanyl in the community means officials are not ruling it out as a cause.

"We're certainly not excluding it, but it isn't the only thing we're considering at this point,'' he said.

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