Nova Scotia

Powerful new street drug arrives in Cape Breton

The Ally Centre of Cape Breton is warning people about the arrival of a powerful and potentially dangerous street drug. The centre said purple fentanyl has resulted in multiple overdoses recently, especially in the communities of North Sydney and Sydney Mines.

Purple fentanyl is dangerous and potentially fatal, warns needle exchange group

The Ally Centre in downtown Sydney, N.S, also houses the Sharp Advice Needle Exchange, and serves people with mental health, addictions and homelessness issues. (Holly Conners/CBC)

The Ally Centre of Cape Breton is warning people about the arrival of a powerful and potentially dangerous street drug.

The centre said purple fentanyl has resulted in multiple overdoses recently, especially in the communities of North Sydney and Sydney Mines.

Giulia DiGiorgio, who works with the Sharp Advice Needle Exchange, said the outbreak of COVID-19 has made it difficult for users to purchase opioids off the street so they are instead looking for alternatives.

"When an illicit substance that will relieve people's withdrawal symptoms appears on the street, people are more apt to go for it because they're sick and they can't get anything else," said DiGiorgio. 

She said the price of street opioids has also increased substantially, given that the supply has been affected by the pandemic. That's also prompted users to look elsewhere.

The drug is characterized as a purple powder that is very strong and typically is common in bigger cities.

Police in Guelph, Ontario, seized purple and blue fentanyl last year. (Guelph Police Service)

DiGiorgio said fentanyl that comes from a doctor's prescription is made in a lab, whereas purple fentanyl is street grade and there's no way to know if the concentration is properly mixed.

"It's Russian roulette," she said. "You don't know what you're getting and so you could get a higher concentration within the shot because it's not mixed right in a regulated lab." 

DiGiorgio said she is not aware that anyone in Cape Breton has died from overdosing on the drug. But she said one of their clients needed three shots of the opioid antidote Naloxone to revive them.

"We're giving out Naloxone kits like crazy making sure that people have it," said DiGiorgio. "If they are using it we're advising that they have the shots ready to go."

She also said crystal meth has recently been in the area. 

Mysterious, dangerous new drug

Meanwhile, another powerful street drug has surfaced in another part of Nova Scotia.

Windsor District RCMP issued a warning April 20 about a drug found in the Windsor-West Hants area that appeared to be crystal meth and heroin, but was potentially even more powerful.

RCMP said the drug contributed to two overdoses, one of which was fatal, within a 24-hour span in that area.

In an email to CBC, Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said the investigation is still ongoing and the type of drug has not been verified by laboratory analysis.

But she said the RCMP do not suspect the drug is linked to the purple fentanyl that has surfaced in Cape Breton.

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