The Fraser Health authority is warning anyone who uses drugs that fake pills are being sold on the street as pharmaceutical Xanax that are tainted with a synthetic opioid and cannabinoid.
Fraser Health said in a public drug alert that it tested pills at the Safepoint supervised consumption site in Surrey and detected the synthetic opioid U-47700 as well as a synthetic cannabinoid. People who use the drug could potentially overdose or die.
“Reports indicate there may be large quantities ready for distribution,” according to Fraser Health.
The harm-reduction website Erowid reports that U-47700 first became available through online vendors in late 2014, and has been detected in counterfeit pharmaceutical opioids and associated with deaths.
Synthetic cannabinoids are a class of chemicals that affect the body in a similar way to cannabinoids found naturally in the cannabis plant, according to Erowid.
The health authority said U-47700 will respond to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone but because U-47700 is not related to fentanyl, people who bring the fake Xanax pills to be checked with fentanyl test strips will get a negative result.
“This may lead them to think their pill is a pharmaceutically made drug and safe to use, which is incorrect,” Fraser Health said.
The health authority is urging people who use drugs to look out for each other. It recommends they not use alone or plan for someone to check on them, stagger use with friends so someone can respond in the case of an overdose, test their drugs by using small amounts first and going slowly, and not mix drugs with alcohol or other drugs.
If someone does overdose, they should call 911, open the person’s airway and give rescue breathing, and administer naloxone if possible.
A Vancouver Coastal Health spokesman said Friday that the fake Xanax pills haven’t been recently reported in the region, but urged people who use drugs to follow the safety protocols noted by Fraser Health.