March 4, 2016 10:10 am
Updated: March 4, 2016 11:59 pm

BC RCMP on high alert after powerful drug W-18 found in Alberta

WATCH: Police have issued a warning about a new street drug that is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, which itself has claimed many lives. Ted Chernecki has more on what you need to know about W18.

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Police forces across B.C. are on alert after a drug that is 100 times more potent than fentanyl was found in Alberta.

It is called W-18. Calgary Police discovered it in three of 100 fentanyl pills they recently seized.

RCMP here in B.C. say they’re aware and warn it’s only a matter of time before the new drug shows up here.

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More than 450 people died of drug overdoses in B.C. in 2015. Fentanyl was responsible for just under one-third of those deaths.

READ MORE: What we know about W-18, a drug ‘100 times more powerful than fentanyl’

Where does W-18 come from?

The drug comes from a “W-series” of opioid compounds first discovered at the University of Alberta in 1982, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. There are 32 compounds, W-1 to W-32, with W-18 being the most toxic.

W-18 is not currently regulated under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act and can be manufactured and bought freely, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Martin Schiavetta, a staff sergeant with the Calgary Police Service Drug Unit, said W-18, like fentanyl, is being produced in China with a majority of the drugs coming through ports in B.C.

“There is no way to really reduce the supply side because it’s being produced in a foreign country,” he said. “We really have to focus on the demand side, through awareness education and prevention.”

‘Getting in front of the issue’

“It’s being made largely offshore, it’s being made by people who are only interested in profit and not people’s health and it is a compound that is many, many, many times more powerful than fentanyl,” said Cst. Ian MacDonald, public information officer for the Abbotsford Police Department.

MacDonald said he hopes there will be medical kits available to help first responders treat people who may have overdosed on W-18.

“Obviously, when people are using these types of drugs they should be doing them in pairs, they should know their source, they should know their dealer,” he added. “Get as much information as you can and part of that information includes knowing about W-18 and other analogues that are out there that are extremely toxic compounds.”

“If you imagine fentanyl, let’s say, being 100 times more potent than heroin, think about something that would be 100 times more potent than fentanyl. You can’t imagine a lot of good outcomes.”

“That’s why we want to be ahead of the curve.”

MacDonald said Canada needs legislation to keep up with the increasing number of derivatives available on market. “We have to make sure the laws stay contemporary, they stay up to speed with the changing market conditions and the fact that we now have chemists all over the world who are looking to fill our markets,” he added.

-With files from Andrew Russell

© 2016 Shaw Media

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