Regulator warns of deadly synthetic opioid detected in Saskatoon area

Etonitazene is potentially 10 to 20 times more toxic than fentanyl. It was found in what's described as "an orange powder or grainy substance."

Saskatoon StarPhoenix 2 minute read November 26, 2021

Naloxone kits include three vials of the life-saving drug plus needles, sanitary materials and instructions. Michelle Berg / Saskatoon StarPhoenix

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS) has warned doctors that lab tests have found a concerning synthetic opioid in the Saskatoon area.

The substance, known as etonitazene, was reportedly detected in a sample from Saskatoon sent to a Health Canada lab earlier this month, according to an alert posted to the CPSS website.

Etonitazene is illegal in Canada under the provisions of the federal Controlled Drug and Substances Act. The drug’s presence in Saskatoon’s illicit drug supply is of concern due to its potential to cause overdoses.

Etonitazene is between 10 and 20 times as potentially toxic as fentanyl and may be present in drugs without people’s knowledge. It was found in what is described as “an orange powder and/or grainy substance.” The alert notes it “may also represent a threat to anyone handling it without taking the appropriate health and safety precautions.”

The alert further advises that an overdose from etonitazene may require more naloxone than usual to reverse due to the drug’s potency.

This is the first time the drug has been detected in Saskatoon, it’s unknown if it has made it into the rest of Saskatchewan but it has been previously detected in other provinces.

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