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A deadlier drug: Doctors suspect W-18 is spiking overdoses

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Legal synthetics have caused "upwards of 50 deaths" nationwide during the last four months, according to Barry Logan, director of the Center of Forensic Science and Education. The center is the nonprofit research arm of NMS Labs, which tests for the substances at its Willow Grove headquarters.

NMS confirmed one death in Illinois caused by W-18 and is investigating its role in another.

"The bigger problem right now is the designer opioid U-47700 and the designer fentanyl, furanyl, fentanyl," Logan said, adding that NMS had detected the two substances in a string of fatal overdoses that reached from Florida to Maine.


Police warn against deadly new street drug W-18

From Radio Canada International:

W-18 is a synthetic opioid considered to be 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 time stronger than fentanyl—a street drug which caused about 270 overdose deaths last year in the province of Alberta alone.

Four kilograms of a white powder seized by police in the Edmonton area in December 2015 was analysed and turns out to be W-18, a drug that is not yet a controlled substance in Canada.

The quantity is enough to produce millions of tablets, say police. Minute amounts can be deadly. Police are concerned that illicit labs creating tablets may not cut the drug properly and that overdoses will result.

Hospitals have been warned to be on the lookout for drug overdoses and deaths that might be linked to W-18. Dr. Laura Calhoun of the government of Alberta health service joined with police to warn the public: “Our message to the public is this: no matter what drug you use, fentanyl or W-18 may be hiding in it, and they may kill you.”

Synthetic opiate makers stay step ahead of US drug laws as overdose cases rise

From The Guardian:

W-18 is one of thousands of synthetic opiates that is not scheduled as a controlled substance and thus not subject to criminal drug penalties, and one of a handful of drugs that law enforcement officials and scientists say they have seen in increasing numbers in the last six months, as use, abuse and overdose deaths continues to rise.

Another, U-47700, which is seven to eight times stronger than morphine, has been the source of overdoses over the past year in at least 10 states since the first US incident was discovered in Knoxville, Tennessee, in June 2015.

Barry Logan, the executive director for the Center of Forensic Science and Education, said his lab has been able to track down 17 overdose cases of U-47700. And several other overdose deaths and hospitalizations have been identified by local law enforcement in Florida and northern Texas.

The uptick in overdoses and drug seizures involving opiates like W-18 and U-47700 follows actions taken by the Chinese government to criminalize more than 100 chemicals on 1 October 2015, according to Bare.

Once more traditional synthetic drugs were outlawed, chemists looked to more novel substances instead.

The banned chemicals included the makings of acetyl fentanyl, an illicit version or analogue of the powerful prescription painkiller fentanyl that is drastically exacerbating the opioid epidemic in the US. Flakka, a cathinone similar to bath salts, was also banned.

Logan said chemists are finding the recipes for these drugs from research books from the 1970s, when scientists were trying to invent alternatives to morphine.

“In order to find one drug like that you have to test hundreds of them,” said Logan. The result is that there are thousands of variations of research opiates, most of which were never meant to be tried on humans.