100 times stronger than fentanyl: New peril looms for BC drug users in painkiller W-18

published on March 3, 2016 by Nick Eagland in The Province

Painkiller W-18, seized by police in Calgary, can be 100 times more powerful than fentanyl – and it’s expected to arrive here

Drug experts fear BC won’t be ready to deal with the devastating impact of the powerful painkiller W-18 when it inevitably hits the streets here.

Already, health officials and first responders are scrambling to combat a surge in overdoses from the potent, synthetic opiate fentanyl, which was detected in 146 illicit drug deaths in 2015, up from 91 in 2014, according to BC Coroners Service data.

After Calgary police recently seized pills containing W-18 – which is up to 100 times stronger than fentanyl – drug experts began bracing for its arrival in BC

Vancouver police and the coroners service haven’t yet seen W-18, but Mounties believe “it’s likely just a matter of time” before it reaches BC, said Staff-Sgt. Rob Vermeulen.

Dr. Keith Ahamad, a clinician scientist at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, also said harm-reduction through naloxone is important, but not the solution to the problem posed by W-18.

“A huge component of the problem, really, is untreated opiate-use disorder, and without a real, concerted effort to engage with this population in an evidence-based way, we’re really … missing the boat here,” Ahamad said.

“Right now we have a treatment system in British Columbia that’s operating outside of best evidence-based guidelines. We have a physician population here that (is) not appropriately trained to both recognize and diagnose, and to treat addiction, in an evidence-based way.”

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