A drug considered to be 100 times more powerful than fentanyl is making its way to Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan RCMP say test results on pills seized in a bust last spring near Kerrobert came back this week, confirming the presence of W-18.
The deadly chemical is legally used as a synthetic research element, but has recently surfaced in counterfeit oxycodone pills.
RCMP said drug dealers have been using the chemical as a cutting agent for fentanyl.
With confirmation of the drug’s presence in western Saskatchewan, Saskatoon police believe it’s a “matter of time” before it reaches the city.
“Typically our drug routes come out from the west,” said Det. Sgt. Robin Wintermute with the integrated drug unit, noting the substance has been found in large doses in Alberta.
”W-18 is going to affect our province and the city.”
The drug is lethal in even smaller doses than fentanyl, but Wintermute says addicts are often too willing to take the risk.
“They’re just in that mindset,” he said. “If you’re going to take a chance… you don’t ever know what you’re getting.”
Frontline workers at risk
The presence of W-18 in the province is also a concern for health care workers.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan issued a warning on Jan. 13 to those responding in emergency situations, saying they risk exposure without proper protection.
Extra caution is also being advised given uncertainty on what can counteract W-18.
The college said it’s unknown whether naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdoses, can be used to treat a W-18 overdose.
“It remains unknown whether [W-18] is an opioid,” the release reads. “However, since W-18 is often combined with opioid drugs, it is still recommended to administer naloxone as a counter treatment.”