Toronto police have issued a public warning about a potent drug they fear could invade the country’s largest city.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid used primarily to treat severe pain, is said to be about 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and about 40 times more potent than heroin.
It has been linked to a dozen deaths in Vancouver since July 27 and 145 overdose deaths in Alberta this year compared with 120 last year.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse recently said as many as 655 Canadians may have died between 2009 and 2014 from fentanyl overdoses.
Toronto Police Insp. Howie Page acknowledged Monday that the “landscape of the problem differs between Vancouver and Toronto,” but warned against being “naive to the potential of shifting trends of a fluid drug culture.”
While Toronto police are yet to see a saturation of fentanyl, imitation OxyContin tablets containing fentanyl have been seized in the city and police advised the public last week about a number of fentanyl patches stolen from a vehicle.
The RCMP has said it is working with the United Nations and China to keep fentanyl off Canada’s streets, but one high-level investigator said the overdose problem is expected to increase.
British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has called for a national co-ordinated approach to better predict how the overdose situation will evolve.