Lethal Drugs are Circulating

Drugs like cocaine, crack, ecstasy, meth, and heroin can be cut with lethal drugs like fentanyl, carfentanil or W-18. People should be aware that drugs they get from anywhere other than a pharmacy or a hospital may not be what the dealer says or believes they are.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more toxic than most other opioids. Opioids are a class of drug or medication which includes heroin, morphine, fentanyl, methadone and codeine. They are most often prescribed for pain relief. Fentanyl is around 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine, which makes the risk of accidental overdose higher. Fentanyl has medical uses and can be prescribed by a physician to help control severe pain, but in recent years it is also being produced in illegal labs and sold on the streets, often mixed with other drugs (such as heroin, cocaine, and others).

When fentanyl is combined with other opioids (like heroin, morphine, methadone or codeine), alcohol, benzodiazepines, or cocaine or methamphetamines, it can further increase the risk of accidental overdose. There is no easy way to know if fentanyl is in drugs and people can’t see it just by looking. People may be taking fentanyl without knowing it and putting themselves at risk for overdose.

It’s not just people who use drugs regularly that are being affected by fentanyl. People trying illegal drugs for the first time are also at risk. So are people who stop using drugs for a while and then start again. Any illegal drugs (such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, meth or crack) can contain a lethal amount of fentanyl.

It’s also important to be aware that drugs other than fentanyl can also be lethal. Thirty percent of the drug overdose deaths in 2016 were not associated with fentanyl. Many overdoses were associated with combinations of drugs and alcohol. More than half of the illegal drug overdoses in the first three months of 2017 showed use of cocaine as well as fentanyl and many people did not know they had taken fentanyl.

What are W-18 and carfentanil, how are they different than fentanyl?

Fentanyl is one of a range of powerful synthetic opioids that may be mixed into powders or pills sold in the illegal drug market in B.C. While fentanyl has received much of the immediate public attention, other compounds like it - such as carfentanil or W-18 - are also very toxic drugs that may be added to or sold as heroin, fake “oxy” pills, or cocaine. These fentanyl analogue drugs are equally or more dangerous than fentanyl, and so extreme precautions need to be taken by people who use illegal drugs.

What is carfentanil?

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid normally used as a sedative for large animals such as elephants. It is an analogue of fentanyl and can be 100 times more toxic than fentanyl. Fentanyl analogues are drugs with a similar, but slightly different, chemical make-up.

How much carfentanil can be fatal to a person?

Carfentanil looks similar to table salt – ingesting one or two grains can be fatal to humans.

For statistics on overdose deaths see the BC Coroners Service report.

Videos (BC Centre for Disease Control)