Investigators said the victim was found in a south Calgary hotel at around 10:40 p.m. on March 7 by emergency crews responding to reports of a person who collapsed. The man was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
On Friday, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed the victim died as a result of a drug overdose. He had W-18, heroin and 3-methyl fentanyl – a highly toxic form of fentanyl – in his system when he died.
Police said 3-methyl fentanyl (3-MF) is an “analogue of fentanyl that is 10 to 15 times more toxic than the base version of the street drug,” adding that “either substance may be fatal.”
“What the medical examiner cannot tell us is the quantity of W-18 in the body,” Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta said at a Friday news conference.
He said it’s possible other deaths connected to W-18 have occurred in Calgary previously, but it’s challenging to test for.
“They’ve actually been only able to screen through a spectrum for the last week…so the medical examiner is going to go back and look at those autopsies.”
The victim, who remains unnamed, leaves behind a common-law wife and infant daughter.
Officers found a naloxone kit in the room with the deceased. The naloxone kit had not been used.
Investigators believe the victim had been alone in the room at the time of his overdose.
“If you’re going to use fentanyl or any other drugs, you’d better have a friend – someone who’s able to call 911 and access naloxone – because you cannot access naloxone when you’re by yourself, going into an overdose.”
However, police said it’s “relatively unknown” if naloxone would even be effective at counteracting W-18.
“The drug dealers that are selling these tablets on our streets have no idea what they’re selling… people who are abusing drugs in our community have no idea what they’re taking.”
On Friday afternoon, Chief Toxicologist of Alberta’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Graham Jones issued a statement reaffirming that although the death was linked to W-18, it’s unknown if it specifically was responsible for the overdose.
“Although the presence of W-18 was found in the deceased, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner cannot confirm it was the cause of death, as other drugs were present as well.”
According to police, W-18 was developed in 1984 at the University of Alberta, but never received a patent.
“We believe it’s currently being synthesized in China and then imported into Canada,” Schiavetta said.
Anyone with information about fentanyl distribution in Calgary is encouraged to call the CPS Drug Tip Line at 403-428-8100, or email email@example.com.
If you are concerned about your own drug use, the drug use of a friend or loved one, or would simply like more information on drug or alcohol abuse, you can also contact the AHS Addiction & Mental Health 24-Hour Helpline at 1-866-332-2322.