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Lab Tests Confirm Carfentanil Has Tainted Metro Vancouver’s Street Drugs

The super-potent elephant tranquilizer has been suspected as the cause of a massive increase in overdose deaths beginning in November.

Following a massive spike in overdose deaths beginning last fall, British Columbia's government has confirmed that the super-potent opioid carfentanil has tainted the illicit drug supply in Metro Vancouver. Today the government announced the drug is showing up in urine tests taken at several Lower Mainland treatment centres. Out of 1,766 tests, carfentanil was found in 57 samples across Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Maple Ridge and Richmond. "This is a limited sample size but does provide confirmation of the presence of carfentanil in BC," reads a government statement. Carfentanil is commonly used as an elephant tranquilizer, and is 100 times more potent than fentanyl. According to the government, a dose the size of one or two salt grains is enough to kill a person. British Columbia has been hardest hit by a Canada-wide opioid crisis. In 2016, 914 people died of illicit drug overdose across the province. Carfentanil has been suspected as the cause of a dramatic spike in overdose deaths in BC beginning in November 2016. Between October and November, the number of deaths nearly doubled, from 67 to 128. December proved to be the deadliest month of the year, with 142 overdose deaths recorded. That overdose rate has continued into January, overloading emergency services across the Lower Mainland. Frontline activists working at overdose prevention sites say that the opioid antidote naloxone is no longer reviving some victims.


Read More: How North America Found Itself in the Grips of an Opioid Crisis Police and border security have found carfentanil in several other provinces including Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. It has turned up in recreational drugs like cocaine in at least one case in Toronto, and has been linked to two deaths in Alberta. BC's coroner only recently acquired the technology needed to test for carfentanil, and will begin testing in March.

The government also announced that border security will soon have new powers to inspect packages under 30 grams, if proposed amendments to federal laws are approved. The province says the new powers will help intercept traffickers shipping the drug to Canada from China.

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