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Cops in Canada Made a Video That Seems to Show How to Make Fentanyl-Laced Pills

Last week, police announced they had busted a clandestine lab in Burnaby, BC, that was capable of churning out up to 18,000 pills an hour. Then they put out a video explaining how the machines they seized work.
RCMP image

Last week, police officers in British Columbia proudly displayed the equipment they seized from a fake OxyContin drug lab in Burnaby that was capable of churning out up to 18,000 fentanyl-laced pills an hour.

It was the latest bust by Canadian police forces that are clamping down on counterfeit fentanyl — a highly potent synthetic painkiller that's 100 times stronger than morphine — which has been linked to a dramatic spike in drug overdoses and deaths across the country.


But in an unusual move, the Burnaby Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) released a video about the seized machinery that, although meant to show the scale of the operators and raise awareness, comes across as a how-to guide for wannabe fentanyl traffickers.

In the video, Cpl. Westwick of the force's Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response Team, stands in front of five metal contraptions and details how each one can be used to produce mass amounts of illegal pills.

He begins with the first machine, which grinds powders and mixing agents "into a finer form in order to allow them to be pressed into tablets," he says as the camera zooms in for a close-up.

The powder is then put into a cylinder attached to a second machine. Westwick turns it on to show how the oddly-shaped thing tumbles and mixes the binding agents. The drug is now ready for the third machine that's capable of pressing it into anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 tablets.

"From here," says Westwick, "they would turn it on and the machine would run itself, pressing out pill after pill after pill."

Finally, the pills are placed into a machine that colors them, and then a fifth machine that sorts and counts them. "It just shows the amount of sophistication and the volume of pills that were being produced," Westwick concludes.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Duncan Pound told VICE News that one of the main purposes behind the video was to educate the public about the sounds these machines make, since most clandestine labs are found in residential homes.


"So if they were hearing these strange sounds, and they didn't know what was going on with the neighbors, what those noises were, but they think they've heard them before," he said. "Then we're offering them the opportunity to get in touch with us so that we could follow up and investigate."

Pound added that the video isn't giving away anything about the drug-making process that isn't already out there.

"All of these devices, you could do an internet search and see what they look like and see how they work," he said. "What we were trying to do was put it into the context so that people might understand something like this might be taking place near you. And if someone is using this kind of process to prepare illicit street drugs that you're thinking about taking, understand the risks and know the source of where these are coming from."

RCMP say they started this investigation back in 2014 when Canadian border agents intercepted a pill press that came through the cargo facilities at the Vancouver airport. The RCMP eventually raided the facility and have charged a 26-year-old man with production and possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking.

At a press conference in Winnipeg this week following a string of fentanyl-related overdoses and one death, RCMP assistant commissioner Kevin Brosseau told reporters that "something that started as a pain medication now presents a real and present danger to our communities."


A recent study found that fentanyl abuse is killing one person in Canada every three days. From 2009 to 2014, there were around 655 fentanyl-related deaths in the country.

Related: The Fentanyl Death Toll Is Climbing in British Columbia

Fentanyl is a prescription painkiller that, in its legal form, is designed to be released slowly into the patient's bloodstream. However, drug traffickers have been cutting it into other illicit drugs, like heroin and cocaine, and using it to produce fake Oxy. Most of the time, drug users are not even aware that they're taking it.

Health officials and law enforcement have been ramping up efforts to curb its use and raise awareness about prevention. Police in BC launched its Know Your Source online campaign that provides information about fentanyl and how people who do take it can reduce the risks.

Last month, authorities in BC and Alberta announced that illicit fentanyl was being imported into Canada through an established drug trafficking route from China and other parts of Asia.

Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne