Health Canada cracking down on chemicals used to make fentanyl
The federal government says the move is in response to a growing number of opioid overdoses and deaths
As the country grapples with a growing number of opioid-related deaths, Health Canada is making six chemicals illegal that are used in the production of the potent drug fentanyl.
The chemicals were previously unregulated. They now are subject to the same controls as cocaine, heroin or other illegal drugs under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The announcement was made on International Overdose Awareness day, an event to raise awareness of drug-related deaths.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that's 100 times more potent than morphine.
- Fentanyl and other opioids for chronic pain put patients on a dangerous slope
- Gwynevere Staddon's death, likely from fentanyl overdose, could have been prevented, mourners say
The drug is usually prescribed in a patch form to treat chronic pain.
But the opioid is now commonly cut into other street drugs — including heroin, oxycontin and methamphetamine — to make them more potent.
An amount the size of two grains of salt can kill a healthy adult.
Crackdown stems from Bill S-225
The move from Health Canada draws from a bill originally put forward by Senator Vern White, a former Ottawa police chief — Bill S-225.
That bill — which was at the third reading in the Senate — proposed to add the six chemicals to the Controlled Drugs and Substances act.
Health Canada says it's following that lead in an effort to address the production and supply of fentanyl.
"Thanks to the work already done by Senator White, we are able to quickly take this step to restrict chemicals used in the production of fentanyl," said Minister of Health Jane Philpott.
Record number of overdoses in B.C.
B.C. has been at the forefront of the fentanyl crisis.
In April, the number of overdose deaths spiked to a point where the provincial government declared a public health emergency.
As of July 31st, 433 people have died from drug overdoses in B.C. — that's a 73.3 per cent increase from the same period in 2015.
Today, Vancouver Coastal health released numbers that show 86 per cent of drugs tested at the safe injection facility InSite over a four-week period contained fentanyl.
Rise in 'bootleg' fentanyl in Ontario
It's a similar story in Ontario.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council and other groups says 2016 has been a record year for overdose alerts and seizures of so-called "bootleg" fentanyls by law enforcement officers.
In recent months, the RCMP has reported an increase in domestic production of illicit fentanyl, Health Canada says.
It says the move to crack down on chemicals used to make fentanyl is part of its new opioid action plan.
The Health Minister says she is also planning a summit to address the crisis in the fall.