KELOWNA, B.C. — An urgent drug alert has been issued for the Interior Health region of British Columbia after extreme levels of fentanyl and a benzodiazepine were found in drug samples tested throughout the area.

Interior Health says there is a high risk of fatal overdose from substances that come in all colours and textures and are sold as Down and fentanyl.

It says drug users should be aware that substances could contain up to 55 per cent fentanyl, up from the average of 10 per cent, and 25 per cent of a type of benzodiazepine often prescribed to treat conditions like anxiety.

The health authority says people who use illicit drugs could experience long periods of sleep and drowsiness and it’s possible they won’t be responsive to overdose-reversing medication if the substance contained a benzodiazepine.

It says anyone who smokes, snorts or injects drugs should get them checked to confirm the contents and be aware of the risks of mixing illicit substances with other drugs, including alcohol.

The health authority is urging people to use drugs with others or at an overdose prevention site.

The alert covers the entire region, which stretches from the Alberta boundary west to Ashcroft and north to Williams Lake.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2022.

The Canadian Press