Halifax Regional Police have issued a warning after seizing 1,900 pills of a potent new synthetic opioid.
Police say the opioid was found as part of a drug trafficking investigation in Halifax.
Over a two-week period in February, officers conducted a number of searches as part of the investigation.
Halifax Regional Police (HRP) conducted a search of a residence on Dentith Road on Feb. 12, where they seized multiple items including approximately 1,900 unknown pills.
Police sent the pills to Health Canada for analysis, which later confirmed the pill to be isotonitazene, an opioid the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education says has a potency similar to or greater than fentanyl.
Police say it is the first seizure of the drug in Halifax.
According to police, the pill came in the form of a white triangular tablet with rounded corners. There was an “M” punched into one side of the pill and the number “8” on the other.
Warning posters about the powerful opioid are already circulating at Direction 180, a community-based opioid treatment centre.
Executive director Cindy MacIsaac is spreading the word about the new potent synthetic opioid.
“We post it, we tell them, we let people know,” said MacIssac. “Word of mouth goes a long way.”
These new synthetic opioid pills could be mistaken as other pharmaceutical or street drugs, says Julien Carette, a former substance user who now works as a safe consumption and harm reduction advocate.
She says it’s no mistake that these pills are manufactured to look like similar drugs.
“If I had seen that pill and seen one side with the eight, I would have thought it was a Dilaudid eight and I wouldn’t think twice about buying it,” said Carette.
“But if you look at the shape of it, and if you really study it, it is a little off. But if you’re sick and you want a pill and you find that, you’re taking it.”
Dilaudid eight or other street names like hearts or alien head is a common name for opioids that look like this one, but isotonitazene could bring a different level of toxicity all together.
“Our primary concern is for public safety,” said Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. John MacLeod. “We know these drugs are extremely potent and we know they have the potential to be fatal and we know there’s a good possibility they may be sold as not necessarily what they are, but as an another drug.
“So we want people to know they are out there and to get medical attention if they encounter them.”
Police are now issuing a warning after their tests indicated that someone may need several doses of naloxone, a drug used to block the effects of opioids, to counter an overdose caused by isotonitazene.
They urge anyone who consumes the drug to seek immediate medical assistance.
On average, 60 people die each year in nova scotia from opioid-related poisoning.