Montreal police are worried that a dangerous drug known as “purple heroin” has made its way into the city.
An internal note obtained by The Canadian Press says the police service’s analysis and intelligence department has been informed of the drug’s presence in the greater Montreal area.
The Ontario Provincial Police warned earlier this year about the dangers of the drug, which is also known as “purp” or “purple,” and is typically made up of heroin, Oxycontin and fentanyl or carfentanil.
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Montreal police declined an interview request but said they were aware of the drug and were being vigilant.
Both Montreal and Quebec provincial police say the drug has yet to be seized during an arrest and no overdoses have yet been linked to it, while adding that police are not always informed of what substances a drug user consumed.
A spokesman for community service organization CACTUS Montreal says he’s not surprised by the drug’s presence, adding the best way to keep people safe is to provide opportunities for drug users to test their drugs before consuming them.
Jean-Francois Mary, who heads the organization that supports drug users, said the problem isn’t necessarily the presence of fentanyl, but of not knowing how much of it there is.
“If they know the quantity, consumers are capable of adjusting the dose,” Mary said. “Now, it’s like playing Russian roulette.”
He said that in order to get their drugs tested, users generally have to visit some of Montreal’s few safe-injection sites.
Mary feels tough police action to stop the flow of drugs does nothing more than destabilize the market by replacing established sources with newer and possibly more dangerous ones.
“Police operations ensure that seized heroin that doesn’t contain fentanyl will be replaced with heroin that contains it,” he said. “Destabilizing the market leads to greater risks for consumers.”
The problem of overdoses, in his opinion, is above all a problem of social isolation of people who “consume secretly and don’t have a support network,” he said.
“These are people who haven’t studied, don’t have access to the health network or the job market,” he said.
He also criticized a system that ostracizes and criminalizes drug users, which he said will lead to more overdoses down the road.