The rise of new opioids in Canada’s illegal drug supply warns substance use research experts

National substance use research institutes are warning about new types of opioids that are increasingly emerging in Canada’s illegal drug supply.

so Alert The Canadian Substance Use Disorders Center (CCSA), published in March, warned that the drug supply of a powerful synthetic opioid called Nitazen, which is “several times more powerful than fentanyl,” is increasing.

According to CCSA, Nitazen usually appears unexpectedly in drugs that are supposed to contain other types of opioids such as fentanyl, oxycodone, and non-medical benzodiazepines, but this substance will be regulated in Canada in 2019. It states that it was first identified with no drug supply.

“They were developed 60 years ago as potential analgesics, but were never approved for clinical use.”

The center found that Nitazen was detected in less than 1% of the samples analyzed by Health Canada’s Drug Analysis Service (HC DAS) in 2021, but the proportion was “four times higher than in 2020.” Increased. “

HC DAS Analyze the contents of drugs seized by law enforcement agencies.

The presence of Nitazen is underestimated, given that some Canadian drug testing services do not have the tools to actually detect this type of substance, said Sarah Conefal, a research and policy analyst at the Center. He said he was likely to be there.

“One of the concerns is that we are only looking at the tip of the iceberg,” she said in an interview with Canadian Press reported on May 21.

Conefal added that the center issued a similar warning when fentanyl first appeared in Canada in 2013. She said the prevalence of fentanyl in Canada’s drug supply began to rise in 2015.

April 2016, British Columbia Since the beginning of the year, a public health emergency has been declared due to the significant increase in opioid-related overdose deaths reported in the state.

Citing data from HC DAS, the Center said that the majority of samples containing Nitazen were 64% from Ontario, followed by a quarter of the samples from Quebec in 2021.

In addition, although only one type of Nitazen was detected in January 2020, the total number of cases increased in two years, and the types of Nitazen detected also increased.

“Note that one sample can identify multiple Nitazens,” says CCSA.

“By 2021, about 14 percent of Nitazen-positive samples contained more than one.”

The fact that more types of Nitazen are emerging, Konefal said, indicates that “probably the reach of Nitazen is expanding.”

She said that new opioids in unregulated drug supplies, such as nitazen and benzodiazepines, tend to appear in drugs containing fentanyl, increasing the risk of overdose.

She added that given the fact that Nitazen is more powerful and is included in drugs that have the same effect, it increases the risk of opioid addiction.

so Overview of October 2021The Ontario Public Health Service said the risk of Nitazen was “probably moderate to high and uncertain.”

“The presence of these substances is increasing in Ontario, and they increase the risk of severe overdose, especially when present with other sedatives,” officials said.

The deaths of four Canadians in Ontario were directly attributed to Nitazen, said Stephanie Rhea, a spokesman for the Chief Coroner office. Nitazenes has been detected by other tests for the dead, and investigations are still underway, Rhea told the Canadian press.

CCSA said overdose, including nitazen, can be difficult to reverse and may require additional doses of naloxone.

“But the protocol for this isn’t clear yet,” the Center said.

Public Health Agency of Canada report Between January 2016 and September 2021, an estimated 26,690 Canadians died from apparent opioid-related overdose in the latest update in March.

Canadian Press contributed to this report.

Isaac Theo


Isaac Teo is a Toronto-based Epoch Times reporter.