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Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic (man-made) opioid that is more toxic than most other opioids, and can be prescribed by a physician to help control severe pain. Fentanyl is also being produced in illegal labs and sold on the streets, often mixed with other drugs. Increasingly, fentanyl is being detected in overdose deaths in BC.

About Fentanyl

Why is fentanyl dangerous?

Fentanyl is around 20 to 40 times more toxic than heroin and 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine, which makes the risk of accidental overdose higher. When fentanyl is combined with other opioids (like heroin, morphine, methadone or codeine), alcohol, benzodiazepines, or cocaine or methamphetamines, it can further increase the risk of accidental overdose. Combining substances (including alcohol), intentionally or unintentionally, increases overdose risk.  It’s also important to be aware that drugs other than fentanyl can also be lethal, and that there is no quality control or regulated manufacturing process for illegal drugs.

Where is it coming from?

Illicit fentanyl is manufactured in clandestine overseas drug labs, both overseas and in Canada. It may be cut into powders or pressed into pills prior to being sold.

Where is it found?

Fentanyl is sometimes sold as fentanyl but other illegal drugs can also contain it, including heroin, cocaine, oxycodone, crack or meth. It may be in drugs that are in powder, liquid or pill form.

These drugs may contain toxic contaminants or have different levels of fentanyl in each batch. Even pills produced in the same batch may have little to lethal levels of fentanyl.

What can you do?

Be aware that drugs obtained from anywhere other than a pharmacy or a hospital may not be what you think they are, or what others believe them to be.

Learn how to  recognize and respond to a drug overdose.

See our tips for safer substance use.

Alerts

  • VCH - Drug Alert - VancouverSeptember 26, 2022 • Posted by Vancouver Coastal Health

    White granules sold as fentanyl tested positive for fentanyl and xylazine, a muscle relaxant, in Vancouver. Check your drugs: www.vch.ca/drugchecking

  • VCH - Drug Alert - VancouverSeptember 26, 2022 • Posted by Vancouver Coastal Health

    Light brown crystals sold as MDMA tested positive for MDMA and TFMPP, a psychoactive substance that may cause agitation and anxiety, in Vancouver.

  • Interior Health - Drug Poisoning Alert - Entire Interior Health RegionSeptember 26, 2022 • Posted by Interior Health

    ***Drug Poisoning Alert - ENTIRE INTERIOR HEALTH REGION - September 26, 2022***

    Interior Health has issued a Drug Poisoning Alert for the entire Interior Health Region. Based on the cluster of drug toxicity deaths in Central Okanagan (Central Okanagan) as well as concerning drug checking findings such as consistent benzodiazepine presentations, higher then average concentration of Fentanyl, and multiple findings of Xylazine in Cranbrook.

                                     

    Many of the recent drug toxicity deaths/overdoses have involved inhalation or smoking of substances.

    Please ensure your clients are aware of safer drug use tips that can help prevent overdose as well as where they can access naloxone, drug checking and other overdose prevention services in your community. 

    No matter what or how you use (smoking, snorting, injecting) take steps to prevent overdose

    • Check your drugs before using! Whether using take home fentanyl testing strips or accessing FTIR technicians in your area, drug checking can inform you about what is in your drugs.
    • Crush your drugs into fine powder: Doing so reduces the chance of hot-spots, which are spikes of concentrated fentanyl in the dope.
    • Be a buddy: Help a friend by being around while they are using. Stagger use if you are using together.
    • Smoking is not safer than injecting, be cautious when smoking your drugs
    • Know the risks when mixing drugs
    • When using your substance start with a small amount, and then go slow.
    • Know the signs of an overdose and be prepared with naloxone.
    • If you must use while alone, consider using the Lifeguard app which can connect you with 911 emergency responders if you overdose. Download at the App Store or Google Play.   
    • Use with others or at an Overdose Prevention or Supervised Consumption Site, if one is near you.
    • Know how to respond to an overdose - call 911, give rescue breaths and naloxone.

  • VCH - Drug Alert - RichmondSeptember 23, 2022 • Posted by Vancouver Coastal Health

    Round pink tablet with imprint "6" seized in Richmond found to contain fluclotizolam, a benzo analog more toxic than etizolam. May cause sedation. Don't use alone.

  • VCH - Drug Alert - VancouverSeptember 21, 2022 • Posted by Vancouver Coastal Health

    ***Drug Alert - VANCOUVER - September 21, 2022***

    VCH has issued a drug alert for the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver (DTES) after colourless crystal sold as METH tested positive for BENZOS. 

    No matter what or how you use (smoking, snorting, injecting) take steps to prevent overdose:

    - Check your drugs: www.vch.ca/drugchecking

    - Be aware of increased risk if mixing with other drugs, including alcohol

    - Use with others around or at an OPS

    - Carry naloxone and know how to use it. Learn more on Toward the Heart

    - Download the Lifeguard app

    - Call 211 or visit www.bc211.ca to find services near you

Resources

Know Your Source

Know Your Source

A fentanyl campaign from public health and law enforcement agencies. 

Opioid Overdose Awareness

Opioid Overdose Awareness

Our web page features risks, signs and how to respond.