Toronto police have identified carfentanil in street drugs seized in the city for the first time, a day after officials confirmed the deadly synthetic opioid had been found in Ontario.
Acting Toronto Police Drug Squad Insp. Steve Watts said officers sent samples of powdered drugs suspected to be heroin seized during an undercover drug raid in October to Health Canada’s Drug Analysis Service (DAS).
The DAS confirmed the presence of carfentanil in the samples Tuesday and said the drugs also tested positive for cocaine and caffeine.
“We’re concerned from a public health perspective,” Watts said, adding that police are working with the Toronto Board of Health on the issue. “Even very seasoned opioid users would obviously be at risk.”
Carfentanil is a powerful opioid – 100 times more toxic than fentanyl, 10,000 times more toxic than morphine and it cannot be detected by sight, smell or taste, according to officials.
Just 20 micrograms of the drug, the equivalent of a single grain of salt, could potentially be fatal. Carfentanil is not intended for human consumption but is instead used by veterinarians to sedate large animals such as elephants.
WATCH: Toronto police have confirmed their first seizure of carfentanil in drugs seized during a raid in the downtown core earlier this year.
“It’s a whole other level above fentanyl,” he said. “We’re going to have to monitor it in a wide-based approach including health professionals.”
Watts said synthetic opioids such as carfentanil have no “quality control,” so even experienced drug users would be at increased risk of overdose.
“It’s not like you’re buying a pharmaceutical-grade patch,” he said. “You’re not going to know essentially what you’re ingesting or injecting. So that’s obviously a concern.”
The announcement comes a day after Waterloo Regional Police announced pills seized in connection with two overdoses in Cambridge and Kitchener, Ont. had tested positive for carfentanil for the first time in the province.
The Waterloo Region Integrated Drug Strategy issued an overdose alert Monday night after confirming with Health Canada the drug had been discovered in Ontario.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced a new provincial opioid strategy in October to combat the increasing number of opioid-related overdoses and deaths.
Ministry spokesman David Jensen said in a statement the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health has been working with the Office of the Chief Coroner to begin better tracking opioid-related deaths, including those from fentanyl and carfentanil.
“Progress is being made on this front,” Jensen said Wednesday. “Through enhanced data collection, modernizing prescribing and dispensing practices, and connecting patients with high quality addiction treatment services we are taking action to combat the opioid crisis in this province.”
WATCH: Dangerous opioid carfentanil surfaces in Ontario
Jensen added Ontario’s Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) had developed the ability to identify the presence of carfentanil in overdose deaths and would begin testing for the drug shortly.
Anyone coming across an unknown substance in the city is urged not to handle it, but to instead contact Toronto police at 416-808-2222.