Emergency opioid overdose training kits, like the one pictured above, feature Naloxone, a medication that quickly reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids such as heroin, methadone, fentanyl and morphine. (Marcie Callewaert Photo)

Drug checking finds fentanyl, other substances in Vancouver street drugs

60 per cent of the substances tested at supervised consumption sites didn’t contain expected drug

Street drugs in Vancouver are often not as advertised, according to new data from a drug-checking program.

Initial results from the pilot project show that more than 60 per cent of the substances tested at two supervised consumption sites between November and April didn’t contain any of the drug that people had expected.

The findings were particularly stark when people brought in what they thought was heroin, with 88 per cent of those samples testing positive for the illicit opioid fentanyl, said Dr. Ken Tupper with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.

“When people are buying these, particularly opioids, and they’re being told by their dealer that they’re getting heroin, they’re generally not,” he said. ”In Vancouver, it seems like the heroin supply has very much been supplanted.”

Many of the “heroin” samples were actually fentanyl cut with caffeine and a sugar substitute, Tupper said.

The BC Coroners Service has said fentanyl was detected in about 83 per cent of the over 1,400 overdose deaths last year in the province.

READ MORE: B.C. launches new drug-checking program, expands fentanyl testing

The drug-checking program was launched last November in a bid to stem the overdose rate. The centre used fentanyl test strips and a portable machine that examines small samples of illicit drugs for contaminants.

The first six months of the program saw 1,714 samples tested and the B.C. Centre on Substance Use said in a release that 61 per cent of those samples did not contain the drug the user expected.

Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine were tested 400 times, the centre said, and 89 per cent of those samples contained some of the expected drug. Five per cent of the stimulant samples tested positive for fentanyl.

The drug-checking program is anonymous, Tupper said, so researchers haven’t been able to study if people changed their behaviour because of the test results.

But he said the testing provides a kind of “consumer safety principle.”

“There’s an accountability mechanism that comes into place with drug checking between a dealer and a consumer that just doesn’t exist otherwise,” he said.

The drug-checking program is now offered at Insite in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and SafePoint, a supervised consumption site in Surrey. Plans are also in the works to provide the service in Nelson, in B.C.’s Interior starting this summer, Tupper said.

Officials are working to find a way to offer the program outside of supervised consumption sites, he added.

The B.C. coroner has said that 90 per cent of the 391 who fatally overdosed in the first three months of this year died indoors.

“We know that the population at greatest risk is people using at home alone,” Tupper said. “So we’re hoping that this type of service might attract people who do perceive some risk and they might be inclined to come and get their drugs checked.”

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Massive fire destroys Agassiz dairy barn

Reports say at least one cow died in the blaze

First court date in Chilliwack for man accused of murdering Belgian tourist

Family and friends of Sean McKenzie, 27, filled the gallery for brief court appearance Wednesday

Another successful year for Chilliwack’s ‘We Got Your Back’ backpack program

Sponsored by local businesses, program stocks backpacks with school supplies for students in need

Group forms in Hope to respond to homelessness, trauma and addictions

Homelessness Action Response Table (HART) full of local, regional, provincial movers and shakers

B.C. man facing first-degree murder charge in death of Belgian tourist

Amelie Sakkalis’ body was found on Aug. 22 near Boston Bar

VIDEO: B.C. deer struggles with life-preserver caught in antlers

Campbell River resident captures entangled deer on camera

Increased security, staffing changes coming to Colony Farms

Coquitlam Forensic Psychiatric Hospital to get new safety measures, stop patient-on-staff violence

Still too many B.C. seniors in care facilities, on drugs

Seniors Advocate watching use of antipsychotics, opioids

Police raid Langley home in search for ‘extremely violent’ murder suspect

Several law enforcement agencies were at a Willoughby home, hunting for a man charged with murder.

Officials: 3 killed in shooting at Maryland Rite Aid centre

FBI described the Aberdeen incident as an ‘active shooter situation’

The hunt for online herb: feds seek dope on hazy world of pot’s ‘cryptomarket’

In less than a month, Canada to be first industrialized country to legalize recreational marijuana

Despite protests, Russia’s anti-doping agency reinstated

On a 9-2 vote, the executive committee declared RUSADA as having satisfied conditions

Burnaby pedestrian in hospital after being hit crossing busy street

Driver remained on scene, is speaking to RCMP

Most Read