The RCMP says the potentially deadly ‘research chemical’ W-18 along with a new and unknown fentanyl analogue have been confirmed in street drugs in two new B.C. cities.
Mounties say in one case, the chemical turned up in Surrey after police busted a dial-a-dope operation in December, seizing pebble heroin.
Health Canada has just confirmed that sample to contain W-18.
In the other case, West Shore RCMP in the Victoria area seized a bag believed to be cocaine back in May.
A sample was sent to Health Canada, who advised Mounties this week that it contained a previously unseen fentanyl derivative.
READ MORE: Police warn W-18 has hit Vancouver streets
Police say at the time of the seizure there had been three overdoses within the West Shore RCMP’s jurisdiction.
The RCMP says it’s also continuing to field reports from around the province about the presence of fentanyl, fentanyl derivatives, and other more unusual synthetic drugs.
W-18 was invented in by chemists at the University of Alberta back in 1982, but began reappearing on the street in Calgary in 2015, and has become a popular ingredient in counterfeit oxycodone and Percocet pills.
Back in June, Vancouver police confirmed it was found in counterfeit pills seized in the West End, while Delta Police confirmed it had been found in samples from a bust a suspected Burnaby drug lab.
Easily transported by smugglers, not so easily identified by users
UBC Adjunct Professor Mark Haden explains W-18 keeps showing up because it’s small and easy to transport.
“They want more concentrated products, during… alcohol prohibition, you couldn’t buy beer or wine and the reason why is people wanted distilled spirits because smugglers always want small packages. And so what we experience now, is smugglers of opioid drugs want the smallest possible product because it’s easiest to move around.”
But he says because of its size, some users don’t know they’re taking it.
“Cause it’s so quite hard to titrate something that is that concentrated, getting it right when you’re dealing with grains is a lot harder than if you’re dealing with, you know, teaspoons of powder, so it’s very difficult to dose people, so the chance of overdosing and killing people is much higher.”
Haden says he predicts that W-18 will continue to appear in illegal markets and more concentrated.