Deadly elephant tranquilizer carfentanil could be in Winnipeg, police testing seized tabs
Carfentanil, more toxic variant of fentanyl, was designed as a tranquilizer for large animals
Winnipeg police believe they have stopped a highly potent drug — a more toxic variant of fentanyl — from hitting the streets.
The police service's tactical team raided a hotel room in the west end of the city on Monday and seized 1,477 blotter tabs that they suspect contain carfentanil, although laboratory test results are still pending.
If confirmed as carfentanil, the street value would be estimated at $30,000, police said.
carfentanil is a powerful synthetic opioid designated not for human use in the U.S. It was originally manufactured for veterinary purposes, designed to immobilize large animals like moose and elephants.
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One hundred times more potent than fentanyl, carfentanil has been inching its way to Canada and in its wake, leaving people dead or with serious health problems.
It looks much like table salt and police said a dose as small as 20 micrograms would be fatal to humans. One microgram is equivalent to a dose less than the size of a grain of table salt.
Health official surprised
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says there have been no reports of anyone going to hospital as a result of a carfentanil overdose.
But Dr. Joss Reimer, the WRHA's medical officer of health, said she's worried it's only a matter of time before an overdose happens.
"It is a bit surprising to see carfentanil coming as quickly as it has, given that it's only recently become a problem even in the [United] States, so it doesn't quite seem to be following the usual patterns that we see for other similar drugs," she said.
carfentanil is usually mixed with other street drugs such as cocaine, Reimer said.
Both Reimer and police are warning drug users, including those who use opioids like fentanyl, to make sure they're not alone with consuming drugs and they carry Naloxone, a drug that is known to reverse opiate overdoses.
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Police say because carfentanil is more toxic than fentanyl, several doses of Naloxone may be needed to reverse an overdose.
Naloxone kits can be picked up at Street Connections at 496 Hargrave St., or purchased from any pharmacy without a prescription, according to police.