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Carfentanil detected at scene of illicit drug death for first time in BC

For the first known time in B.C., the highly toxic opioid carfentanil has been detected at the scene of an apparent illicit drug death.

A drug sample seized by the coroner and Vancouver Police at the scene of a death that occurred Nov. 17, 2016, in an East Vancouver residence was sent to a federal Health Canada laboratory for testing. The sample has now been confirmed as containing carfentanil.

Testing cannot currently confirm whether carfentanil was the cause of death for this individual, a male in his 30s. However, the ability to undertake post mortem testing for carfentanil is expected to be available at the Provincial Toxicology Centre next month.

Carfentanil is an analogue of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and is known to be the most toxic opioid used commercially. Its commercial use is as a general anesthetic agent for large animals, up to elephants, and it is never to be prescribed to humans.

Last week Vancouver police confirmed that carfentanil had been detected in a sample of drugs seized in an enforcement action that did not involve any fatalities.

The BC Coroners Service reminds those using illicit drugs to use extreme caution given the current threat of contamination of any illicit substance. Those using drugs are urged never to use alone and to ensure medical assistance is immediately available. Those witnessing an apparent overdose need to call 911 immediately.