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

Agrifair attendance up 25 per cent from 2017, say organizers

New attractions, including RCMP Musical Ride, being credited for hike

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Police issue warning that 19-year-old poses ‘significant’ risk to the public

Varinderpal ‘VP’ Gill of Abbotsford involved in Lower Mainland gang conflict, police say

EDITORIAL: Gill must break silence and back up claim

If Coun. Moe Gill can’t substantiate his allegations, he should take a hard look at his campaign

Fraser Valley Bandits announce season ticket prices

Basketball team set to tip-off in summer of 2019

Interim GoFundMe payments approved in Humboldt Broncos crash

$50,000 to be given to each of the 13 survivors and each family of the 16 people who died

Altidore nets 3 as Toronto drubs Whitecaps 5-2

Vancouver falls 7-4 on aggregate in Canadian Championship final

Ottawa intervenes to get B.C. ball player, 13, to Little League World Series

Before immigration issue was resolved, Dio Gama was out practicing the game he loves Wednesday

Pet goldfish invades small B.C. lake

Pinecrest Lake is located between Whistler and Squamish

Metro Vancouver water reservoirs in ‘good shape’

Reserves sitting at 70-per-cent full, officials said, despite long stretch without major rain

Mounties deployed to help B.C. communities affected by wildfires

RCMP officers heading to places particularly within central, northern and southern B.C.

Chinese medicine practitioner in B.C. facing historical sex assault charges

71-year old Kit Wong practiced acupuncture from his home during the time of the assaults

Quebec sets aside $900 million for companies hurt by U.S. tariffs

Premier Philippe Couillard says his government will make $863 million available over five years

Most Read