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The Globe and Mail

Vancouver police tie fatal overdose to toxic drug carfentanil

In this June 27, 2016 photo provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a member of the RCMP opens a printer ink bottle containing the opioid carfentanil imported from China, in Vancouver.


For the first time police in Vancouver have linked a fatal overdose to the highly toxic drug carfentanil.

Officials say a drug sample was seized from an East Vancouver home, where a 39-year-old man died on Nov. 17, and sent to Health Canada for analysis.

Police and the provincial coroner's service say the sample has tested positive for carfentanil, a manufactured drug that is much more potent than the opioid fentanyl and is used commercially as general anesthetic for large animals like elephants.

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Read more: A Killer High: How Canada got addicted to fentanyl

Read more: A Killer High: Fentanyl's Deadly Path: How the powerful drug gets through Canada's border

Read more: How a B.C. couple's struggle with addiction ended in deadly fentanyl overdoses

Last month, a nine-month-old boy in Manitoba was rushed to hospital after being exposed to carfentanil, which is so powerful that just a few grains can be fatal for adults.

The coroner's service says post-mortem testing for carfentanil will not be available in the province until next month, so it can't say whether the drug led to the man's death.

But police are warning drug users not to use alone and to watch for signs of opioid overdose, including severe sleepiness, slow heartbeat and trouble breathing.

"This is the first confirmed death linked to carfentanil in Vancouver," Sgt. Randy Fincham says in a statement. "Unfortunately, we suspect this death won't be the last."

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There were 622 illicit drug deaths in B.C. between January and October this year and fentanyl was involved in more than 60 per cent of those overdoses.

The province declared a public health emergency in April and has since taken measures to address the opioid crisis, including increasing the availability of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

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