Police issue warning after a drug stronger than fentanyl found

KELOWNA, B.C. – Police in B.C.’s Interior are warning the public about a dangerous new drug they say is nearly 100 times stronger than fentanyl.

Health Canada detected the presence of the synthetic opioid called W-18 in a batch of counterfeit drugs seized during a recent drug bust in Kelowna.

The use of potent synthetic opioids can easily result in a fatal overdose, even when taken in very small amounts, and the RCMP says the green-coloured oxycodone tablets marked CDN-80 are especially dangerous because they’re virtually always fake.

Provincial Health Officer, Doctor Perry Kendall, who has already declared B.C.’s first public emergency as a direct response to the rapid rise in fentanyl-related overdose deaths, has conceded this is a battle the province is losing.

Last week the B.C. Coroners’ Service posted some more shocking numbers, noting that last year the overdose death rate climbed to 10.2 deaths per 100,000, a rate not seen since 1998.

Fentanyl was the leading killer behind the spike, accounting for 32 per cent of the 2015 overdose deaths, which totalled 121 among people between 10 and 29.

This year that number has jumped to 50 per cent, and in the same age group the number of deaths is already up to 74.

As result health authorities are scrambling to find new treatment methods and Health Canada is now planning some regulatory changes to allow doctors to prescribe Heroin for opioid addicts.

Doctor Scott MacDonald of Vancouver’s Crosstown Clinic says about 10 per cent of those suffering from opioid addiction respond only to treatment with heroin.

In 2014 a BC judge granted an injunction allowing some doctors to continue Heroin treatment, which was the subject of a Harper government ban in 2013.