New Brunswick

New drug as dangerous as fentanyl hits Saint John streets

Saint John police have issued a warning about a new drug that has the qualities of fentanyl but is being sold on the street as a far less dangerous product.

Drug requires 'at least' two overdose treatments to reverse effects, police say

Police in Saint John and Halifax issued similar warnings Thursday about a powerful new street drug that has appeared in both cities. It has qualities resembling the synthetic opioid fentanyl. (Saint John Police Force)

Saint John police have issued a warning about a new drug that has the qualities of fentanyl but is being sold on the street as a far less dangerous product.

The white pills are triangular with rounded corners. An "M" is imprinted on one side and the numeral 8 on the other.

"Given the potency of this drug, we certainly wanted the public to be aware that it is out there," said police spokesman Jim Hennessy.

The unusual pills were picked up by police a month or more ago and sent to a lab for testing.

Hennessy says the results show it is isotonitazene, an extremely powerful synthetic opioid that can be dangerous, even to someone who simply handles it.

"You would need at least two treatments of [opioid overdose treatment] naloxone to try to counteract what this drug can do," he said.

Hennessy did not reveal how the police came into possession of the pills, saying the information may be part of an  investigation.

Police in Halifax released a similar warning about the drug Thursday.

In that case, 1,900 pills were picked up at a residence on Dentith Road in Spryfield on Feb. 12.

'It's all bad, it's all bad,' says executive director Julie Dingwell of Avenue B, a harm reduction centre in Saint John. (CBC)

At Avenue B, a needle exchange and harm reduction centre in Saint John, executive director Julie Dingwell said drug users are assuming the pills are Dilaudid, which comes in an eight milligram version and is a far less dangerous opioid.

"It's just all bad, it's all bad," said Dingwell. "It just makes me think that we need to talk about a safe drug supply. The supply right across the country that people have been accessing on the street is poisoned."

Dingwell said new pills are constantly appearing, almost all of them with impurities or unknown ingredients.

She said change is needed so people with addictions can get access to the drugs they're searching for without risking their lives.

"We want to keep people alive, and that's our number one goal."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726 Connell.smith@cbc.ca

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