Fraser Health warns of high levels of carfentanil in ‘chunky’ white drug samples in Coquitlam

A sample of carfentanil is analyzed in this photo released by the US Drug Enforcement Agency, taken on Oct. 21, 2016.
A sample of carfentanil is analyzed in this photo released by the US Drug Enforcement Agency, taken on Oct. 21, 2016. Fraser Health warned members of the public on Dec. 4, 2022, that high levels of the dangerous substance have been detected in Coquitlam, B.C. Russell Baer/U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration via AP

Members of the public are being warned about “chunky” white drug samples circulating in Coquitlam, B.C., that contain high concentrations of carfentanil, an extremely toxic synthetic opioid.

Opioid users in the area may face increased risk of overdose from both injection and inhalation, Fraser Health said in an emailed alert on Wednesday.

Anyone whose sample matches the “chunky” description is urged to have the substance tested, freely and confidentially, at one of several locations listed on its website.

According to the B.C. government, carfentanil is usually used as a sedative for large animals, like elephants, and can be 100 times more toxic than fentanyl. It can be mixed into powders or pills, and added to or sold as heroin, fake “oxy” pills or cocaine.

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Carfentanil looks similar to table salt, it adds, and ingesting one or two grains can be fatal to humans.

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Fraser Health is encouraging users not to use alone, to use less than their normal dosage, brush up on overdose awareness, and carry naxolone. It said early signs of an overdose include unusual snoring, or a person taking less than one breath every five seconds.

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“Call 9-1-1 quickly when you notice something isn’t right,” it wrote in the alert, adding that anyone who calls police in the case of an overdose is protected from simple possession charges.

The health authority also encouraged organizations working in mental health and addictions and harm reduction to discuss overdose prevention strategies with their clients.

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Coquitlam is not the only B.C. community to be alerted to elevated drug use risks this week.

An overdose advisory was also posted for the Cowichan Valley on Wednesday due to “indicators and community reports signaling of an increase in drug poisoning events in the community,” according to Island Health.

On Tuesday, Vancouver Coastal Health issued an alert about green pebbles being sold as DOWN, which tested positive for fentanyl, benzos and Xylazine in Vancouver.

Naloxone kits are available at hundreds of pharmacies, clinics, health vans and community organizations throughout Metro Vancouver. A list of locations is available on the Toward the Heart website, and information on services can be found by calling 211.

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, more than 1,800 people died of illicit drug overdoses in the first 10 months of 2022, while almost 10,700 have died since B.C. declared a public health emergency in April 2016.

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