In recent weeks, police and doctors in Halifax, Saint John, Regina and Lethbridge have been reporting the discovery, and warning residents of, new and dangerous street drugs associated with overdoses and deaths.
Halifax Regional Police announced discovering a new drug while carrying out multiple searches as part of their investigation in February, which resulted in seizing 1900 unknown pills in Halifax. Following analysis by Health Canada, it was revealed that the tablets contained a synthetic opioid referred to as isotonitazene, which is similar to fentanyl, but stronger. Isotonitazene was also recently found in Saint John during a recent investigation.
According to the description provided by the police, the pill comes in the shape of a white triangular tablet with rounded corners, with an “M” on one side and the number “8” on the other side. Saint John Police Force has also stated that the tablet’s appearance may be deceptive, leading consumers to believe it is a different drug.
“By sharing this information, we are making the public and emergency personnel aware of a new drug that can have serious consequences if consumed or exposed to.”Jim Hennessy, communications manager for the Saint John Police Force, in his interview with CTV News
Julie Dingwell, coordinator of the harm reduction clinic in Saint John, said the drug bears close resemblance to other illicit drugs typically found in circulation. “It’s just so frightening because when I was showing it to people here on the desk, they said, that’s a Dilaudid 8,” she said. “I said, ‘no it’s not a Dilaudid 8, it’s been made to look like a Dilaudid 8.'”
In Regina, the police have reported the discovery of a new drug associated with dangerous and medically complex overdoses. So far, two fatal overdoses in the city have been reported, with toxicology results revealing the presence of traces of etizolam, a benzodiazepine analog which had never been detected in Saskatchewan before. Despite having appeared in a small number of drug samples analyzed by Health Canada, etizolam had never been previously linked to a fatal overdose in the province.
“We’re certainly very concerned with the current rise in overdoses. If we attribute a new drug in Regina to be part of the problem, we’re of course very concerned.”Police spokesman Les Parker
Although etizolam has not been indicated in any of the 85 overdoses in the city so far this year the police are staying very aware of it as they have seen what has happened with it in cities such as Vancouver. Vancouver saw dozens of overdoses last summer where etizolam was detected, and it is still fairly common to find in street drugs. Although etizolam is not used within the medical system in Canada or the United States it has made appearances already in Ontario, B.C., and Alberta in the last year.
“It’s almost a sort of date rape drug. People can be victimized and not remember what happened to them.”Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health
Etizolam is a benzodiazepine analog which means the effects are similar to opioids in that they surpress the nervous system. This means that if they are taken together the risk of overdose increases. Dr. Lysyshyn points out that although the effects of can be reversed the process must be done within a hospital and is more dangerous then administering the opioid antidote, naloxone, which can be done anywhere.