August 9, 2016 2:14 pm
Updated: August 10, 2016 12:02 am

Police intercept deadly opioid carfentanil: ‘50M doses could’ve hit our streets’

WATCH ABOVE: A Calgary man is charged with importing what amounts to 50 million doses of carfentanil, a drug 100 times more potent than fentanyl, from China. Global’s Gary Bobrovitz has the details.

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A Calgary man has been charged after a joint police investigation intercepted a 1-kilogram package of the drug carfentanil, an opioid police say is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

“One kilogram of carfentanil can produce approximately 50 million fatal doses that could’ve hit our streets,” RCMP Insp. Allan Lai said. “It is unsure as to what the use of this was going to be when it was brought into our community.”

Watch below: RCMP Insp. Allan Lai says if you come across carfentanil, don’t touch it and call authorities

READ MORE: Calgary police chief cites economy, new drugs in crime increase – ‘we need more help’

Canadian Border Services agents intercepted the parcel—which was sent from China—at Vancouver International Airport June 27. It was marked as “printing accessories” and destined for a Calgary residence.

Watch below: CBSA Chief Ana Maria Coutu speaks about the recent carfentanil seizure

When officers noticed a white substance, it was sent for testing and removed from the mail system. RCMP and the Calgary Police Service were then brought into the investigation.

Watch below: Calgary Police Insp. Martin Schiavetta talks about the potency of Carfentanil

Investigators showed 1 kg of salt at the press conference Tuesday as a point of reference to show the texture of the drug, considered a more toxic analogue of fentanyl.

Carfentanil has a similar chemical composition and effect as that of fentanyl, according to Vancouver Coastal Health medical officer Mark Lysyshyn.

“We know these fentanyl analogues have sort of been on the street probably the same amount of time as fentanyl has been, in fact, but only recently have we had some seizures of them,” Lysyshyn said.

He said though it’s 100 times more toxic than fentanyl—meaning 100 times more likely to cause an overdose—it really depends on the dose people take.

“That’s the whole problem right now is nobody knows what drug they’re getting or what dose it’s in and so that leads people to overdose.”

Lysyshyn emphasized current interventions like naloxone and supervised intervention have been shown to work against fentanyl and analogues like carfentanil.

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Officials couldn’t provide details on the number of deaths linked to the drug in Canada, what form (pill, powder) it might come in, or the estimated street value of such a shipment.

“Police are doing everything they can with our partnerships, working with Health Canada Interpol to ensure this drug does not hit our streets,” Insp. Lai said. “I can’t quote numbers but I can say in the last number of years throughout all provinces there has been an increase, a significant increase [in deaths linked to the drug].

“It is very serious; it’s very dangerous. The message for the public is: if you come across this, make sure you don’t touch it, don’t do anything with it.”

Calgary Police Service Insp. Martin Schiavetta said the medical examiner and addictions-related partners have been notified to be on the lookout for carfentanil in Alberta, but so far no instances of the drug have been reported.

“Carfentanil and fentanyl do have some legitimate purposes in society and in medicine,” Schiavetta said. “Unfortunately we’re talking about the illegal aspect.”

Watch below: RCMP Insp. Allan Lai speaks about the carfentanil seizure

Joshua Wrenn, 24, was arrested at his home July 5 and faces charges including importation and possession for purpose of trafficking a controlled substance. Schiavetta said he has a “limited history” with Calgary police. He is set to appear in court Oct. 19.

Watch below: Calgary Police Insp. Martin Schiavetta says police are concerned about the increase from fentanyl to carfentanil

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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