BURNABY — When it comes to inducing fatal drug overdoses, what’s riskier than fentanyl?
A drug called W-18. And Delta Police say that’s what they seized during a drug bust in March after searching three places in Burnaby, Surrey and Richmond and breaking down a clandestine lab in Burnaby, which Sergeant Sarah Swallow said is “believed to be one of the largest fentanyl labs seen to date in BC in terms of drug production.”
Delta Police raised the alarm Tuesday after tests turned positive for W-18 in several of the exhibits that were seized. Investigators believe the W-18, much more potent than fentanyl, was being manufactured to resemble heroin or oxycodone before being sold on the street.
Asked if police believe some of the W-18 made it to the streets, Swallow told the Now “I can’t confirm that it did but it’s very likely that it did.”
It’s a synthetic opioid that was developed as a pain reliever in the 1980s but did not hit the shelves as Health Canada considers it to be 100 times more deadly than fentanyl, a colourless, odorless drug that last year killed 471 people in Canada and 132 in the first two months of 2016.
Many drug users aren’t aware their fix has been cut with W-18 or fentanyl as neither can be detected by sight, smell or taste.
Delta Chief Constable Neil Dubord said the “street level use of drugs like W-18 is still in its infancy in Canada and it appears users are completely unaware of its presence in the drugs they are consuming.”
He said it’s “very apparent” drug traffickers are aware of the danger their counterfeit drugs pose.
“In the seizures done by our investigators, the accused were carefully protecting themselves with respirators, gloves and goggles during the process and yet went on to knowingly sell this product to unsuspecting users.
“The motivation of these individuals to make money clearly supersedes their social responsibility in this equation,” Dubord said.
The RCMP CLEAR Team and Burnaby RCMP and fire department dismantled the Burnaby lab.
The Delta Police Drug/Special Projects Section initiated the investigation.
So far five suspects have been arrested. Scott Pipping, 35, of Surrey and Adam Summers, 27 of Delta are facing more than 20 charges and remain in custody and charges are still pending against the three others.