Police are warning residents about W-18, a powerful opioid 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, discovered in Vancouver on April 8.
According to police, two men were arrested by police after a break-and-enter in the city’s West End and after searching the pair, one of them was found with drugs, including what was thought to be a counterfeit OxyContin pill.
The drugs were given to Health Canada for analysis and on June 24, police learned that one of the pills contained W-18.
“We continue to see an alarming increase in overdose deaths throughout the province,” said Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Randy Fincham in a statement.
“Many of those deaths have been the result of people knowingly, or unknowingly, taking synthetic painkillers such as fentanyl. With the recent appearance of W-18 in the Lower Mainland, the lives of more habitual or recreation drug users are at even greater risk.”
More than 450 people died of drug overdoses in B.C. in 2015. Fentanyl was responsible for just under one-third of those deaths.
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.
~ with files from Amy Judd and Andrew Russell